ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Government now has to pay almost double what an earlier valuation board had recommended as fair compensation for the Half Moon Bay (HMB) property.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled on Monday that reimbursement should be US $45.5 million and not US $23 million as put forward in 2007 by a government-appointed Valuations Board.
HMB Holdings, which owned the property, has been locked in a legal battle with government since 1998 after the state seized the resort. It has been lying derelict since it was damaged by Hurricane Luis in 1995.
Attorney General Justin Simon said he is surprised and very disappointed at the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I am not able to say what the rationale of the court was because I have not yet received a copy of the decision,” Simon said.
“In fact, my information from counsel who held papers for me was that the written decision was not ready and we would be getting it in a few days. So when I get the decision I will then assess what the government’s next step would be in that matter.”
Managing Director of HMB Holdings Natalia Querard told The Daily OBSERVER the board and shareholders will have to review the ruling of the Appeals Court.
“Given the interest that has accrued on the US $45.5 million, it has taken us over the US $60 million (mark). Actually it is at US $65.7 million at this point. So yes, the wait is painful and wasteful but the figures are going to grow and continue to grow. So it is likely we will accept this decision without taking it further but I am not guaranteeing anything at this point,” Querard said.
Querard has in the past accused the government of using delaying tactics to avoid paying the sums owed and she said it is now up to government to take action.
“I think the government holds all the answers to these questions at the moment,” Querard said.
HMB Holdings previously owned Half Moon Bay Hotel but it was expropriated by the government in 2007 in a legal battle that went all the way to the Privy Council.
The government, spanning Antigua Labour Party and United Progressive Party administrations, contended that it was in the public interest to acquire and revive the property that has been derelict since the passage of Hurricane Luis in 1995.