In light of the recent information being misrepresented in the public domain, the Department of Physical Planning presents the factual detailed sequence of events leading to the acquisition and compensation of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96, for the edification of the public, as follows:
1. In 2013, the Government took a policy decision to acquire Block 0037B Parcel 95 & 96 at Anse Jambette Cove, in the Quarter of Anse La Raye, to facilitate future touristic development. That decision was formalized via Cabinet Conclusion No. 491 of 2013.
2. Subsequent to Cabinet’s decision to acquire Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96; the public and all parties of interest were notified through the publication of notices of intention to acquire in the Saint Lucia Gazette dated Monday September 30, 2013 (first publication) and Tuesday October 8, 2013 (second publication)
3. At the time of the acquisition, the properties Block 0037B Parcel 95 & 96 were subject to a number of encumbrances including Judicial Hypothecs in favor of the National Insurance Corporation, Inland Revenue Department and First National Bank and Caribbean Banking Corporation.
4. In addition, there were also registered cautions against the properties by Gold Cliff Development Company Limited, Mohinder Saiwak, Malcom W. Augustin and Natasha St. Aimee and National Insurance Board. The latter charges were affixed specifically to the aforementioned block and parcels. However, the other charges in the Incumbrances Section of the land register, were affixed to all properties owned by the then Edward Joseph (Chef Harry).
5. In addition to the publication of notices in the Saint Lucia Gazette, and in keeping with the established procedure, the Authorised Officer also wrote all parties with registered interest against the properties, including the registered land owner “Joseph Edward”. The purpose of the letter was to inform the relevant parties of Cabinet’s decision to acquire Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 and the need to express their individual interest to the Authorised Officer.
6. The letter to Edward Joseph was sent on October 15, 2013. There was no response by Mr. Joseph Edward to the Authorised Officer’s letter of October 15, 2013.
7. On January 28, 2014, the Authorised Officer received a letter from Amicus Law Chambers, acting on behalf of Gold Sky Investments Inc. indicating the following:
a. That Gold Sky Investments Inc. had purchased Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 from Edward Joseph.
b. That Gold Sky had duly lodged the deed at the Registry of Lands by way of a caution registered as instrument number 2053 / 2013.
c. That Edward Joseph had passed the Authorised Officer’s letter of October 15, 2013 to Gold Sky for their information and reply.
d. That attached to their letter was a Statutory Declaration from Edward Joseph, confirming the sale of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96, to Gold Sky Investments Inc. In addition, Gold Sky Investments has been in actual possession of the properties and is the proper party entitled on the issue of compensation in relation to the compulsory acquisition.
8. On June 23, 2014, via Cabinet Conclusion No 340 of 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the declaration of acquisition of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96. The publications of notices of Declaration to acquire were published in the Saint Lucia Gazette on Tuesday July 22, 2014 (first publication) and on Monday July 28, 2014 (second publication).
9. In keeping with the Land Acquisition Act Chapter 5.04, the properties 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 was declared Crown upon the second publication of declaration in the Saint Lucia Gazette. This meant that Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 became Crown / State property on July 28th 2014.
10. The land acquisition was registered in the Land Registry as instrument number 4967/2014. And the register was amended to reflect the foregoing. Such changes can be viewed on the first and second edition of the respective land registers.
11. The first edition of land register relating to 0037B 96 and 95 was opened on 25/05/2011 due to a land subdivision which gave rise to the current block and parcel number. The particulars of Edward Joseph’s ownership and the Incumbrances on the said parcels were reflected. However, the first edition of the land register for 0037B 95 was closed pursuant Section 13 of the Land Registration act and a second edition was opened on 9th August, 2013.
12. Both registers at this point would reflect Edward Joseph as the owner, but they also show the deletion of Edward Joseph’s interest by instrument number 4967/2014 and entry of Crown as owner. These changes were undertaken in the year 2014.
13. On August 14, 2014, the Authorised Officer received a letter from Amicus Law Chambers indicating that the law firm represented both Gold Sky Investments and Edward Joseph and attached was a valuation report of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 as requested by the Authorised Officer. The valuation submitted by Gold Sky Investment was in the sum of XCD $10,167,000.00
14. After receipt of Gold Sky evaluation in 2014, the negotiation for the compensation of the properties remained on hold pending an in-house assessment of the referenced properties.
15. On January 22, 2018, the Authorised Officer received an in-house valuation for Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 in the sum of XCD $9,488,000.00. This value was determined by using comparable sale and market trends in close proximity to the acquired parcels.
16. On April 8, 2019, Amicus Legal wrote the Authorised Officer expressing concern over the length of time which had lapsed in the settlement of compensation for the acquisition of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 and requested full settlement of the acquisition inclusive of the interest in the sum of XCD $12,727,580.00.
17. In light of the financial strain of this acquisition to the State and concerns surrounding compensation, the Department of Physical Planning wrote to the Cabinet of ministers for guidance on a policy decision regarding the use of the aforementioned properties to Government or the option of returning the property to the owner.
18. Upon a review of the Department of Physical Planning’s’ submission, Cabinet took a decision via Cabinet Conclusion No. 478 of May 27th, 2018, to transfer Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 back to the legal owner pending the determination of any compensation obligation that the State may have in keeping with the Land Acquisition Act.
19. On August 13, 2020, the land registers for Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 were rectified in keeping with Cabinet Conclusion 478 of 2019 and the lands re-registered in the name of Edward Joseph.
20. This was when the land register was amended to reflect the particulars of this conclusion. Such was registered in the land register as instrument number 2960/2020. The register was closed and a new edition opened to put the property back in the name of Edward Joseph. The second and third editions of the respective land registers reflect this information.
21. After the rectification of the land registers, the Authorised Officer commissioned an in-depth investigation to determine who should be compensated for the acquisition of the subject parcels. In addition, more consideration was given to the financial cost to the State if the acquisition was abandoned. This would mean transferring the property back to the owner would have still cost the State in excess of XCD $3.5 million dollars in payment of statutory interest.
22. As part of the aforementioned investigation, on February 21, 2021, the Department of Physical Planning wrote to Amicus Legal, Veronica Holly & Gregory Niel, c/o Joseph Henry (Attorney at Law) and Mohinda Saiwak, to inform them of Cabinet’s decision to rectify the land register and place the properties (0037B Parcels 95 & 96) back in the name of Edward Joseph.
23. That letter also informed the interested parties, that Gold Sky Investments Inc. was claiming to be the owner of the properties and should there be any competing claims to compensation; the respective parties should state their claim to the Authorised Officer.
24. On March 10th, 2021, the Department of Physical Planning received a letter/package from Amicus Legal with the following contents.
i. A proposal for compensation in the sums of $9,489,110.40 in bonds;
ii. Monetary compensation in the sum of $4,554,772.99 representative of the statutory interest;
iii. A letter from the Chamber of Franconia Solicitors acting on behalf of Mr. Henry Joseph of Temple Law Associates;
iv. A Statutory Declaration from Henry Joseph giving details of his dealing with Edward Joseph AKA Chef Harry in the preparation and execution of his last will and testament.
25. On April 6, 2021, The Department of Physical Planning submitted a Memorandum to the Cabinet of Ministers for the compensation of Block 0037B Parcels 95 and 96 in favor of Gold Sky Investments.
26. The decision to compensate Gold Sky Investments Inc. was based on the following:
a. A Statutory Declaration from Edward Joseph, confirming the sale of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96, that Gold Sky Investments Inc. has been in actual possession of the properties and that Gold Sky is the party entitled to and to be engaged on the issue of compensation in relation to the compulsory acquisition.
b. A Statutory Declaration from Henry Joseph, lawyer of the deceased Joseph Edward indicating that Edward Joseph (the deceased) informed him of the sale of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 to Gold Sky Investments. Moreover, that there was an understanding among the Executors and himself that Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 could not have been viewed as forming part of the deceased estate since the deceased had previously sold the same to Gold Sky Investments.
27. The Department of Physical Planning relied on the submissions of Henry Joseph, who purported to represent the Estate of Edward Joseph and on that premise a submission was made to Cabinet for compensation.
28. Cabinet considered the recommendations submitted by the Department of Physical Planning and by Cabinet Conclusion No. 281(a) of 2021, approved compensation to Gold Sky Investment in the sum of XCD $9,400,000.00 as full and final payment for the compensation of acquisition of Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96.
29. Cabinet also took the decision to vest the subject properties to Invest St Lucia with the view of facilitating touristic and other commercial investment opportunities, with Saint Lucians being given 1st priority.
30. The Land Registry received the copy of the said Conclusion (No. 281(a) of 2021), on June 18th, 2021 by way of application from the office of the Authorised Officer.
31. Based on this application the register was again amended by Rectification – instrument number 2409/2021. The rectification order led to the insertion of ‘Crown’ on the land register and the deletion of Edward Joseph’s interest and all the existing encumbrances.
32. The register being circulated in the press is the third (3rd) and fourth (4th) edition of the individual land registers as it relates to 0037B 95 and 96 respectively and shows the current state of the land register as it pertains to date. However, the previous/closed land registers provides evidence of the chronological sequence of events which began from 2014 as it relates to the above captioned land parcels.
33. The Land Registry’s amendments to the land registers was in keeping the Cabinet conclusions received by the Authorised Officer who was the officer in charge of making those request by virtue of his office.
34. Any changes made to the Land registers were undertaken by virtue of the provisions of the Land Registration Act, which directs the office of the Registrar of Lands. The relevant rectification orders will substantiate this assertion.
Based on the foregoing and in keeping with established procedures in land acquisition and compensation matters, any individual or individuals who believes, their interest in the process of compensation for Block 0037B Parcels 95 & 96 has been neglected or overlooked; is advised to make an representation to the Office of the Authorised Officer on the first floor of the Greaham Louisy Building, Waterfront, Castries either in person or in writing, in respect of any interest, claim, clarification or deliberation regarding the foregoing matter.