John Calder Hart, former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT), was a no-show yesterday at the Port of Spain High Court where a $65-million lawsuit filed against him was being heard.
This in spite of his attorneys being told by Justice Andre Des Vignes on September 20 that Hart ought to be present at the case management conferences.
Yesterday's hearing was held in chambers and reporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of UDeCOTT on May 1 and accused Hart of breaching his duty to exercise skill, care and diligence in the management of the affairs of UDeCOTT in relation to the still incomplete Brian Lara Cricket Academy at Tarouba.
It is being alleged that Hart failed to ensure the renewal of advance payment bonds or, alternatively, recovery of $65,680,978.88 representing the balance of the advance payments made to contractor Hafeez Karamath Ltd (HKL) by UDeCott.
On September 20, Hart was ordered to pay to UDeCOTT $16,800 in legal fees after he failed to convince Des Vignes to grant him additional time to file a defence to the lawsuit.
Hart's attorneys—Dr Lloyd Barnett, Keith Scotland, Stuart Young and Annabelle Sooklal— filed a defence on his behalf on November 12. Hart said he will contend that the lawsuit was brought after the expiry of four years from the date on which the breaches are said to have occurred and have therefore become statute barred.
He also intends to argue that he did not fail in his duties as executive chairman. Hart said he was never the sole decision-maker with respect to the awarding of any contract to HKL by UDeCOTT and that any contract awarded by UDeCOTT was done after the approval of the board of directors of UDeCOTT was received.
Hart said this approval was always based on the directors' reliance in good faith, on reports received from professionals in their various disciplines, including attorneys, accountants, engineers and appraisers.
The matter has been adjourned to March 18, 2013.
UDeCOTT is being represented by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Leslie-Ann Lucky-Samaroo and Kerry-Ann Oliverie.