St. John’s Antigua- Attorney General Justin Simon QC said he is baffled as to the hue and cry raised by Hugh Marshall Jr who said government is in breach of a court order regarding the purchase of two parcels of land being utilised as part of the US $47 million airport expansion project.
Marshall, the attorney representing Stanford Development Company (SDC), owners of the land, said government breached a 2010 Court Order which indicated how it should go about taking possession of the lands.
“It was agreed that for the purchase of the property, monies which were owed by the SDC companies (for statutory deductions) would be set off in the deal for the sale of the land and the balance would be paid in cash. We have yet to agree on what monies are owing to statutory corporations like medical benefits, social security and property tax among others. We are waiting on the attorney general who tells me he is waiting on the Ministry of Finance,” Marshall said.
The company also owes monies for education levy as well as utilities to Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).
Countering Marshall’s remarks, the attorney general said, “The judgment debt in favour of APUA is more than sufficient to cover the purchase price of parcel 72 which is the taxi stand and urgently needed to commence the construction of the new terminal; parcel 71 is the former government car park. There is therefore no reason for Mr. Marshall to object to the commencement of work on that parcel.”
Airport authority officials also told OBSERVER Media that work has not begun on parcel 72 owned by SDC.
While Marshall later acknowledged SDC’s debt to APUA can cover the cost of Parcel 72, he said the sum has not been allocated to any particular parcel and there are two parcels involved.
“To my knowledge they haven’t even filed an entry of satisfaction. It is not paid for and (the attorney general) has yet to agree what other statutory payments are outstanding. There is going to be an outstanding balance for the sale of all the lands and they have not yet indicated how they are going to pay that balance,” Marshall said.
He maintained that government breached the order, but at the same time, he said SDC does not intend to back out of the deal or move to the courts to enforce the order since in his view “it is better to try to work something out rather than being in constant conflict.”
To Marshall’s comments, Simon, who is at a conference in London, said he expects the other debts would be settled this week.
He also stated, “I have forwarded Mr. Marshall (and Ministry of) Finance, the figures from the various statutory boards and in respect of property tax (which I obtained from the various Boards and Inland Revenue) and expect Ministry of Finance officials to sit with him on that issue. From my rough calculations, the cash balance would be less than a million dollars and in respect of which there ought to be negotiations with the Ministry of Finance as to installment payments.”
Finance Minister Harold Lovell could not be reached as he is said to be traveling on government business.
In 2003, recently convicted fraudster Allen Stanford purchased 25.59 acres of land at the airport, including the two acres, at a cost of $1.10 per square foot. Today, government is paying $18 per square foot to recover the lands.
This follows Stanford’s indictment in 2009 for the US $7 billion Ponzi scheme, after which government had to go to parliament and compulsorily acquire the airport lands.
The US $47 million airport expansion project is expected to be completed late next year. Government said the project will increase the terminal by over 165,000 square feet, adding 26 check-in counters, three jet bridges and by 20 immigration desks.