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State to fork out $7 million for $3-million car

Published:Sunday | May 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Government ordered to pay couple for BMW seized in 2006

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

The Government will have to pay more than $7 million to the owner of a BMW motor car which was seized by state officials in 2006 and has not been released since.

Supreme Court Judge Sarah Thompson James had ruled in 2009 that no further customs duty was owing on the car and it should be returned to the owners, attorney-at-law Brenton Henry and his wife Sarah Butt Henry, but the Government appealed the ruling.

Last week Friday, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Government's appeal and ordered that the Supreme Court order must be executed without further delay.

The motor car, which was valued at $3 million when it was seized in 2006, is no longer roadworthy.

"It is a pity that the government employees who are placed in important positions cannot deal with the issues and bring justice to a particular case, and have caused the Government to be paying out these enormous amounts of money," said attorney-at-law Garth Lyttle, who represented the couple.

$7 million with interest

Lyttle said the Government will now have to pay legal costs in addition to at least $7 million with interest, as the couple had sued for loss of use of the motor vehicle.

The Henrys, who lived in England, said they exported 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 and was subsequently valued for $3 million.

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

Gregory Dalton-Brown, a mechanical engineer, on May 12, 2006, at the request of the police, examined the motor car and said it appeared to be in the same condition as manufactured.

Following the seizure, the couple took the matter to the Supreme Court and Justice Thompson-James ruled that the seizure was unlawful and the motor car should be returned to them.

The judge ordered the Government pay to the couple $1.5 million with interest at six per cent from January 31, 2006 to November 24, 2009.

The Government appealed the ruling but the Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, said it cannot be ignored that the judge accepted that the repairs were done to the motor car in Jamaica.

It was the court's finding that the statement by Dalton-Brown was made against the background that he did not see the motor car at the time it was manufactured.

'It is a pity that the government employees ... cannot deal with the issues ... and have caused the Government to be paying out these enormous amounts of money.'