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CCJ-awarded damages to Surinamese beverage company increasing

Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, says the money owed by the Government of Guyana (GoG) to Surinamese beverage company, Rudisa Beverages and Juices, has increased to $1.6 billion due to government’s failure to pay the initial amount of $1.2 billion in a timely manner.

The AG further said that the parties to the matter will appear before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) tomorrow- Tuesday, July 21, 2015-via video conference for proposals to be made as to how the matter of the outstanding payment can be resolved.

Caribbean International Distributors Inc. is a subsidiary of Rudisia in Guyana which imports and sells the beverages it (Rudisia) produces. In 2014 the CCJ found that Guyana violated the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) by, in 1995, imposing on the company an environmental tax of GUY$10 on all imported, non-returnable beverage containers the company brings into the country.

Rudisa was awarded US$6,047,244 – the amount collected from the company in taxes since 1995 – and the Government of Guyana was asked by the court to stop collecting the tax. More than a year later, Guyana is yet to make this payment and is arguably in breach of Article 215 of the RTC which declares that “The Members States, Organs, Bodies of the Community, entities or persons to whom a judgment of the Court applies, shall comply with that judgment promptly.”

Moreover, the amount has been collecting interest over the past year since it was awarded and now, according to Williams, has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars.  

“The judgment awarded by the CCJ has not been paid and the company has filed in relation to brining that matter up back before the CCJ…Not paying that judgment has caused it to move from $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion and counting…we are hoping to talk to the company with a view to see how much we can reduce that judgment sum,” Williams explained.

He said that the GoG has already engaged the company toward this end. Asked how the company has responded this far, the AG said “the negotiations are afoot.”

“…When the matter comes up before the CCJ it is basically on the basis of case management where we will have to report as to the status of how we propose to deal with this judgment.”

Williams also says that the GoG is making moves toward repealing the tax, especially in light of complaints by other companies.

“Other companies have come out. ANSA McAl, they didn’t file an action, but they are saying that the incidence of that tax run into hundreds of millions of dollars also,” he said. The AG said that government has already drafted an amendment to the Customs Act which will essentially “repeal that tax that was imposed.”

Meanwhile, several years ago the CCJ, in a separate case, had awarded Trinidad Cement Company a judgment of some TT$2 million, after the GoG failed to implement a common external tariff on cement from sources outside the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as was ordered by the CCJ. Guyana was to comply with the order by September 17th, 2009.

During a post-Cabinet press briefing earlier this month, Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, indicated that the current administration will honour the judgments.