A BITTER legal battle between George Nicholas, chairman of Mora Oil Venture Ltd (MOVL) and Mora Ven Holdings Ltd (MVHL) and MOVLís former chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Krishna Persad came to a determination at the High Court in Port of Spain yesterday.
Former judge Justice Sebastian Ventour resigned as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission on Wednesday and came out of retirement for the day to deliver the ruling which was made out in favour of Nicholas and the companies.
Nicholas had filed six private charges against Persad accusing him of fraud after Persad lost his family business to Nicholas in a hostile takeover in May 2002.
Three of the claims made by Nicholas was that Persad had taken significant loans out of MOVLís account which was made available to Persad and KPA, that there was an unauthorised removal of US$600,000 from MOVLís account to another in the Bank of Nova Scotia and that he and KPA failed to pay royalties to the Government in accordance with the terms of the Exploration and Production Licence.
After hearing evidence for some 250 days over a six-year period from 26 witnesses, the judge ruled that MOVL, MVHL and Nicholas had proven some crucial areas of oppression on the part of Persad and his company Krishna Persad and Associates Ltd (KPA).
In his 112-page ruling, the judge made six declarations, among them that Persad and his company were exercising their powers in an unfair, oppressive and unfairly prejudicial manner, disregarding the interest of Nicholas, MOVL and MVHL.
Ventour also declared that Persad breached his fiduciary duties, set aside an operating agreement after he was no longer CEO and amended the Acquisition and Shareholders Agreement.
Nicholas was given 90 days to purchase the minority ten per cent shares in MOVL currently owned by Persad at a fair market value .
In December 2004, Persad filed counter claims against Nicholas and the companies on the grounds of oppression pursuant to Section 242 of the Companies Act, Chapter 88:01 and the common law dealing with oppression of a minority within the corporate structure of MOVL and MVHL.
Ventour dismissed the counter claims, and ordered that Persad and KPA pay 60 per cent of the legal cost incurred by Nicholas, MOVL and MVHL throughout the civil trial and full costs on the counter claim.
Nicholas and the companies were represented by Israel Khan, SC, and Keith Scotland instructed by Daniel Khan, while Persad was represented by Justin Phelps instructed by Messrs Alves, Clarke and Company.