Only vindicatory damages awarded for failure to establish link between the breach of constitutional right and closing down of business

Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ): A Five Judge Bench comprising of Saunders (President) and Wit, Hayton, Anderson, and Rajnauth-Lee, JJ. awarded only vindicatory damages to the appellant as they could only prove breach of their constitutional right and no consequential damage thereto.

There was an indictment unsealed in the United States of America whereby the appellant was charged with securities fraud, evasion of taxes, money laundering and conspiracy to commit those offences to which the respondent were directed to search the offices of the appellant in order to prevent the destruction of evidence under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act, 2014.

It was stated by the appellant that only the copy of the search warrant was read to him but neither was he given a copy of the same nor the inventory of the item seized along with denial of the appellant into its office during the search which was unreasonably oppressive and thus was the breach of Section 18 of said Act as it interfered with its privacy guaranteed under Sections 9 and 14 of the Constitution which consequently led to the closing down of the business. It was argued by the respondents that when the trade license of the appellant’s company was suspended it was neither challenged nor renewed which eventually led to the closing of the business.

The Court came to the conclusion that the search was excessive but not oppressive and appellant has failed to prove a link as to how the breach harmed their business and hadn’t been for the search conducted still the appellant couldn’t have continued their business due to the suspended license. Also, the appellant overestimated the value of their business by 80% when they asked for the respective damages which clearly cannot be allowed. Accordingly, the appeal was partly allowed by awarding the appellant vindicatory damages in lieu of breach of their constitutional rights. [Titan International Securities INC v. Attorney General of Belize, [2018] CCJ 28 (AJ), dated 17-10-2018]

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