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Gov't appeals loss-of-use claim

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

The Government is appealing a Supreme Court ruling that it must pay $1.5 million, with interest, for loss of use of a BMW motor car it seized from a couple in January 2006.

The car was seized on the basis that the correct amount for customs duty was not paid and there was a balance of $7.6 million.

The Court of Appeal, two Thurs-days ago, granted the Government a stay of the judgment until the appeal has been heard.

Supreme Court judge Sarah Thompson-James handed down a judgment last month in favour of Brenton Henry and his wife, Sarah Butt Henry. The judge ruled that no further customs duty was payable on the motor car and ordered that it be returned to the couple.

She also ruled that the seizure was unlawful.

The Henrys claimed they imported the salvage of a BMW motor car from England in December 2004 and paid customs duties of $1.1 million. The damaged motor vehicle was taken off the wharf to a garage where it was repaired.

Counterclaim dismissed

The defendants had counterclaimed on the grounds that the BMW motor car was imported in the name of Sarah Butt Henry. They said the customs duties and general consumption tax of $1.1 million were calculated and assessed on the basis of false declarations made by the Henrys as to the cc rating.

But the judge dismissed the counterclaim.

On January 21, 2006, when Mr Henry attended the Montego Bay branch of the Inland Revenue Department to license the motor car, it was seized on the instructions of Desmond Robinson, regional director of special investigations at the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance.

The defendants - Robinson and the Attorney General - contended that the duties paid were on a cc rating of 1995 instead of 3200, which would amount to $8.7 million.

They counterclaimed for the outstanding balance of $7.6 million.

The claimants, who were represented by attorneys-at-law Garth Lyttle and Michelle Clarke, contended the BMW they imported was involved in an accident in England.

They say it had been written off by the insurers and they bought the salvage for £10,000. The salvage was shipped to Jamaica and, after repairs, the car was valued at $3 million.

The judge, after hearing evidence from the parties, ruled that the order for the seizure of the motor car was carried out on what she found to be based on mere suspicion on the part of Desmond Robinson.

The judge said there was no basis for the seizure and that it was not sufficient to "cry fraud" without proof.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com