Her Majesty’s Customs (HMC) has been ordered to file a legal defense in a case involving a boat seized by law enforcement following a drug bust in Virgin Gorda in October 2019.

In the case heard by court master Alvin Shiva Pariagsingh last week, Customs was ordered because they (HMC) had not done so on other occasions.

Malcolm Maduro, doing business as Sunshine Power Boat Rental, has been registered as the owner of the vessel involved in the drugs case which left two locals and two Venezuelan nationals facing drug charges in the court of first instance.

Maduro’s vessel was seized by HMC at the time. But Maduro initiated proceedings to recover the vessel in May 2020. In these proceedings before another master of the court, he requested several declaratory orders and, in the alternative, the cost of his vessel. Maduro also sought special damages, exemplary damages, interest and costs.

Maduro was granted a default judgment in October 2020 against HMC after the law enforcement agency failed to defend himself or acknowledge his claim in court.

Among other things, the court at the time ruled in the default judgment that his vessel had been wrongfully seized and detained by HMC and further awarded him $130,000, which was presented as the value of the vessel and engines or any value assessed by the court. .

Maduro also guaranteed damages at the rate of $1,200 per day from the date the vessel was seized.

Judgment canceled

But after taking over the case as presiding judge, Pariagsingh ruled that the previous default judgment that was issued in Maduro’s favor in October 2020 should be overturned. Pariagsingh said the October 2020 judgment was “irregularly obtained”.

According to the Master, the request made by Maduro was in itself irregular.

Pariagsingh said he found the court exceeded its jurisdiction in granting the order he made.

“Furthermore,” Pariagsingh said, “the application should not have been presented to the Master in the first instance and the application itself was defective and should not have passed through the Registry undisputed.”

He then ruled that permission had been granted for HMC to file and serve its defense to the application by February 28, 2022.

Lawyers Karen Reid and Mandy Harnarinesingh appeared for Maduro while HMC was represented by Jo-Ann Williams-Roberts and Renard Penn.

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