THE Government of Saint Lucia has filed a defence and counterclaim in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in response to a claim by Opposition politician Ernest Hilaire over the controversial purchase of a Land Rover motor vehicle while he was High Commissioner for Saint Lucia in London.
Hilaire, who is now the parliamentary representative for Castries South in the House of Assembly, has named as defendants in the case, the acting Comptroller of Customs, Peter Chicot, and the Attorney General, as representative of the Government.
It is the latest development in the controversy surrounding the purchase of a Land Rover Discovery Sport vehicle in the name of the Saint Lucia High Commission in London in 2015, while Hilaire was the High Commissioner.
The Government maintains in its defence and counter claim they have in their possession documents, prepared by Hilaire that state that the Saint Lucia High Commission purchased the Land Rover and registered it in its name. They say these documents conflict with Hilaire’s allegation that he owns the Land Rover, which has been detained and is now in the possession of the Customs Department.
They say they have asked Hilaire to furnish documents to prove that the vehicle belongs to him, which he has failed to do.
Hilaire, who is also the first deputy leader of the St Lucia Labour Party, has taken the Government to court to reclaim the vehicle. He is insisting that he personally purchased the vehicle which was shipped to St. Lucia after he ceased to be High Commissioner.
In its 19-page defence and counterclaim filed with the Courts, the Government says the documents prepared by Hilaire show that the Saint Lucia High Commission purchased the Land Rover and registered it in its name, and those documents conflict with Hilaire’s allegation that he owns the vehicle. The Government states further that Hilaire has failed to produce the relevant commercial invoices as requested to prove that he owns the vehicle.
In its counterclaim against Hilaire, the Government alleges that, if the Land Rover vehicle in fact belong to Hilaire, then he has acquired it in circumstances amounting to a fraud against the UK Government and against the car dealer from which the vehicle was bought. The Government maintains in its pleadings that Hilaire would have made false representations and submitted official documents containing false statements in order to defraud the revenue of the UK Government and to fraudulently obtain for himself and his brother, Paul Hilaire, the benefit of substantial discounts and/or tax exemptions to which he/they were not otherwise entitled. In doing so, Hilaire implicated the office of the High commission in his fraudulent scheme.
The Government of Saint Lucia is contending that those actions amounted to a breach of Hilaire’s fiduciary duties as High Commissioner and that, because of his unlawful and shameful conduct, the reputation and dignity of the people of Saint Lucia have been tarnished and the office of High Commissioner and, by extension, the Government of Saint Lucia, have been brought into disrepute.
The Government is, therefore, seeking damages and/or equitable compensation from Hilaire.