Last Updated on Saturday, 3 June 2023, 0:20 by Denis Chabrol
Guyana’s High Court on Friday ruled that the once well-known ‘C Island Hotel’ was legally sold for GY$50 million after a majority of fingerprint experts testified that the then owner’s signature on the sufficiently crafted agreement of sale was not forged, paving the way for the transport to be passed to the new owner.
The court found that ‘C Island Hotel’ was properly sold by Guyanese-St Lucian, Antoine Charles July 17, 2019 to his friend of six months, Marlus Hendricks but after Mr Charles died on March 18, 2020 his estate administrator and son Royan Charles refused to recognise the agreement of sale and process the transfer of the transport. The younger Charles had contended that his father’s signature was forged, the sale agreement was badly framed and that Mr Hendricks had no proof that the money was paid.
Justice Sandra Kertzious, in her decision, disagreed with Mr Charles’ grounds and ordered that the respondents convey the property located on Princess and High Streets, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown before September 2, 2023, failing which the Registrar of Deeds must pass the title to Mr Hendricks who will have to pay for that process. The court said a mortgage owed to the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry would have to be paid in full before the title could be passed.
Royan and Kenwin Charles have also been ordered to pay Mr Hendricks costs totalling GY$150,000.
Representing Mr Hendricks were Attorneys-at-Law Clevaun Humphrey, Lance Ferreira and and Gwendoline Bristol. Those representing Mr Charles were Attorneys-at-Law Nigel Hughes, Rexford Jackson and Jed Vasconcellos.
In terms of Mr Charles’ argument that his father’s signature was forged, Justice Kertzious ruled that there was sufficient expert testimony as well as the naked eye view that the signature on the sale agreement was that of Mr Antoine Charles. The handwriting experts compared that signature with those of Mr Charles on his Guyanese and St Lucian passports, liquor licence, his will, change of address forms, a letter to Tax Operations and one medical bill and two of three of them said it was his signature.
“The Handwriting Experts evidence were divided on whether the various signatures of Antoine Joseph Charles were that of the deceased,
and it was also acknowledged by the expert retained by the Respondents, that not always would the expert be able to conclusively determine that the signature examined was indeed the signature of the person, and various reason were given for this occurring,” she said.
The High Court judge also found that there was no fraud. “From the naked eyes however, the Court accepts the evidence of the Claimant, that the signature on the Agreement of Sale dated the is indeed the signature of Antoine Joseph Charles, deceased. Consequently, there is no fraud committed by the Claimant as contended by the Respondents, whose allegations of fraud, is premised solely on the execution of the Agreement of Sale,” the Judge stated.
Noting that the defendants were disputing that any payment was made, Justice Kertzious said only relying on their contention that their deceased father would have informed them of the transaction, as he usually discussed all of his business dealing with them, and that the signature on the Contract was not that of the deceased.
Ms Kertzious remarked that one wonders about the risk taken and the degree of confidence entrusted by Mr Hendricks by Mr Charles is not unheard that businessmen would sometimes conduct their negotiations with cash in preference to Bankers Cheque. The Claimant also stated that he was assured that the Agreement of Sale represented the receipt, confirming the said payment.
The judge said that Commissioner of Oaths, Abushameer Khan could not have been relied upon as a credible witness