By Elesha George
“I am certain they’re going to settle this,” said Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lionel Hurst, in response to a lawsuit brought against the latest medical university to call Antigua its home.
About six months of rent owed has led to legal action brought by Yida International Investment Antigua Limited, the company which owns and operates the country’s first special economic zone (ABSEZ) at Crabbs, and Western Imperial Capital Limited, which is behind the second such zone near Jennings.
Hurst told Observer that it is his understanding that the Western Imperial operator decided to rent several of the villas Yida has constructed at Coconut Hall for a period of one year but then “changed his mind”.
Western Imperial Capital Limited, which does business under the name Western Imperial Medical University, agreed to rent property at the ABSEZ on June 18 last year at a cost of US$100,000 in the first instance and US$300,000 quarterly until July 2022.
High Court documents read: “It was agreed that US$100,000 would be paid by the defendant 10 days after the signing of the agreement and that the rental would be paid on a quarterly basis in the amount of US$300,000/quarter at the beginning of each quarter beginning 1st July 2021.
“It was subsequently agreed between the parties that the quarterly rent due would be reduced by 50 percent so that the quarterly payment would be US$150,000/quarter.”
Yida however claims that the company did not honour its agreement and as of January 2022 owes him more than half a million dollars “including the rental deposit of US$100,000, quarterly rent due on 1st July 2021 of US$150,000, quarterly rent due on 1st October 2021 of US$150,000, and quarterly rent due on 1st January 2022 of US$150,000”.
According to the court documents to date, Western Imperial has only paid the sum of US$125,000 including payments of US$50,000 and $25,000 made on November 19 2021 and a payment of US$50,000 made on December 17 2021.
Yida is now suing for US$425,000. He is also asking the court (in accordance with Section 27 of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act) to determine a sum for loss and damage suffered as a result of the non-payment.
It would seem, based on a section in the lease agreement which states “any issues between the two parties can be resolved through negotiations. If either party thinks it cannot be resolved, it can be resolved though legal proceedings,” that efforts were made by Yida to collect the money without recompense.
In spite of it, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff is confident that the dispute will be settled out of court, telling Observer on Monday that “these are wealthy people who are not interested in lawsuits. Lawsuits are time consuming andextremely difficult to pursue – exceedingly difficult”.
Both companies and the economic zones that they are set to operate have been a source of major controversy due to perceived environmental damage along with hefty tax concessions.