By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has refused an extension of time application of an international oil company that was seeking leave to commence a judicial review of former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest.
In July 2019, TGO Ltd, formerly known as the Texas Gas & Oil Ltd, was directed by the Financial Secretary by way of notice to produce several documents requested by Mexico within 28 days of the receipt of the notice. According to court documents, the direction was given pursuant to section five of the 2010 International Tax Cooperation Act.
On November 5, 2019, TGO sought leave to commence judicial review of Mr Turnquest and/or the financial secretary’s decision to issue the notice to produce the documents.
However, when the matter was heard before a Supreme Court judge, she refused TGO’s request to commence a judicial review of the ministerial order to “produce documents in an oral ruling” after finding their application was “unmeritorious”.
After obtaining leave to appeal the judge’s ruling, TGO once again sought leave of the Appellate Court to extend the time for filing an appeal against the judge’s entire decision.
Still, on Friday, Justices Jon Isaacs, Roy Jones and Carolita Bethell refused their application with costs to the respondents to be taxed if not agreed.
In their judgement, delivered by Justice Bethell, the panel noted that a judicial review is concerned with the legality of the decision made, rather than with the merits of the particular decision.
“Accordingly, the task of the judge is to ensure that the exercise of any power which has been delegated to the minister has been lawful according to the power given to that body by an Act of Parliament, in this case the International Tax Cooperation Act, 2010,” she stated. “If the minister was acting within his jurisdiction the court would not interfere with the decision. If, however, he makes an error of law, the court, through the process of judicial review will intervene in order to ensure that the minister reconsiders the matter and acts in accordance with his authority under the Act under which he derives his power.”
Justice Bethell also said based on the circumstances of the case, TGO had “no realistic prospects of succeeding on appeal.”
“The learned judge in refusing to commence judicial review proceedings found that the minister did not misuse his discretion in arriving at the conclusion that all the necessary requirements have been complied with albeit, in compliance with the 2013 Amendment, finding that it did not mean that he failed to comply. In her opinion, she found that it was a simple procedural inadvertence on the part of the Competent Authority.”
She added: “The Court notes that nothing in the Act states that the minister has to be satisfied that all of the 13 factors have been made out. Indeed, it is presumed by the issuance of the notice that it has been done. It is the decision of this court that the learned judge did not make an incorrect finding in refusing to commence judicial review proceedings as the minister made no error of law.”