Judge rules expert survey not needed in Alfa Nero yacht case

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By Elesha George

[email protected]

High Court Judge Rene Williams has dismissed the inclusion of an expert report by yacht surveyor Peter Chettleborough in the ongoing Alfa Nero yacht case.

Judge Williams ruled that Chettleborough’s assessment was not critical to addressing the main issues of the case.

The lawsuit, initiated by Yulia Gurieva-Motlokhov, challenges the actions of the Port Manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, the Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Affairs and Merchant Shipping, and the Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda. The dispute revolves around the seizure and planned auction of the yacht.

In March 2023, the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda passed the Port Authority (Amendment) Act 2023, granting Port Manager Darwin Telemaque the authority to seize and auction vessels. The Alfa Nero was seized in April 2023, and the auction process began shortly thereafter. This move has sparked numerous legal challenges seeking to overturn the decision.

Gurieva-Motlokhov, claiming ownership of the yacht as a beneficiary of trusts governed by Guernsey law, filed an Originating Motion on June 15, 2023, contesting the seizure and proposed sale, arguing that these actions violated her rights to property.

Her legal team, led by Robin Barclay KC, Dr David Dorsett, and Leandra Smith, argued that expert testimony on the yacht’s condition was crucial, particularly since the Port Authority described the vessel as dangerous or harmful to health if it remained at Falmouth Harbour in Antigua.

Chettleborough, a marine engineer, was to provide an expert report detailing the yacht’s condition, including a physical survey and an analysis of its onboard computer, logbooks, damage reports, and insurance claims.

However, the respondents, represented by Anthony Astaphan SC and his legal team, opposed the inclusion of Chettleborough’s report, deeming it irrelevant to the case’s core issues.

Judge Williams acknowledged evidence supporting the need for expert involvement but concluded it was unnecessary for the case’s resolution. He noted that Chettleborough’s proposed examination of documents not currently in evidence could lead to additional information requests and disclosure applications, increasing costs and causing delays without substantial benefit.

“Chettleborough proposes to examine documents such as the vessel’s logbooks which are not in evidence before the court. This is likely to spawn further requests for information or applications for specific disclosure. The defendants would also be entitled to put questions to the expert in accordance with CPR. This will lead to an increase in costs with no apparent benefit, as findings as to the state of the vessel at the material time can be made without this additional evidence.

“I therefore find that Mr Chettleborough’s methodology and scope of his proposed report will lead to a disproportionate increase in costs and further delay the timely resolution of this claim,” Judge Williams explained.

The constitutional claim is scheduled for a pre-trial review on July 3.

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