The Trinidad and Tobago Office of the Attorney General lost its final appeal over a US$10 million lawsuit filed by Cobham relating to the company’s service provisions that provided crew, training and maintenance of the now permanently grounded Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard (TTAG) helicopter fleet.
Appellate Judges Gregory Smith and Andre Des Vignes ruled in favor of Cobham, backing a previous High Court ruling by Judge Avason Quinlan-Williams that issued judgment in favor of Cobham Helicopter Services Limited in May.
The TT AG’s Office had argued that the initial contract was not valid at it did not receive approval from the Central Tenders Board, which was proven to be an invalid defense based on an exemption contained in the nations Central Tenders Board Act that states TT Defense Force goods and services are exempted from requiring approval.
The TT AG’s office had filed two continuance requests in the suit and was seeking a third, blaming a facility move that happened earlier in the year as their reason for not being ready to defend the case. The judgement was made after refusal of the third continuance request, ordering the state to pay UK based Cobham US$10,638,000, and all subsequent legal costs associated with the defendants case filing to recoup the money owed.
In March 2017, the Ministry of National Security entered a two-year contract with the company to provide maintenance and technical support the TTAG fleet of four AW139 helicopters, acquired in 2009. Cobham stepped in after the state terminated a contract with Leonardo Helicopters to provide the service which was subcontracted in part to Cobham.
The TT government grounded the TTAG fleet in June 2017, with new Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley stating that maintenance costs were too high for the fleet, instead opting to move rescue operations and border security duties performed by TTAG to a public/private entity, National Helicopter Service, although this arrangement has cause much public outcry as several natural disasters saw no response from the TT government where previously the small island nation had played a critical part in saving lives in situations where Trinidad and Tobago responded to incidents that included hurricane response and search and rescue to other small island nations hard hit by hurricanes that lacked their own rescue abilities.