–to determine amount, other matters
JUSTICE Fidela Corbin-Lincoln has awarded judgement in default to privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper and its Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, who are before the court on a $45M lawsuit levelled against them by Senior Counsel Rajendra Nath Poonai for the defamation of his character.
The Senior Counsel took the National Media and Publishing Company Limited, the printers of Kaieteur News, its publisher Glenn Lall and its Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, to the High Court for an article which was carried on Thursday, May 23, 2019 edition of the newspaper with the front-page headline “Attorney convicted of fraud in Canada, appointed Senior Counsel.”
The article reported that Poonai had been convicted of fraud in Canada. However, on May 24, 2019, the Kaieteur News issued an apology with the headline “Wrong Poonai accused of fraud, Kaieteur News apologises unreservedly”
“It is not often that one finds two men with the same name and both of them being lawyers and are almost the same age” the apology stated.
Poonai is being represented by attorneys-at-law, Robin Stoby SC, Rafiq Khan SC, Stephen Fraser SC, Sohan Poonai, Naresh Poonai, Glenn Hanoman, and Everton Singh-Lammy.
In August, since no defence was filed by Kaieteur News and its editor-in-chief, the Judge awarded judgement in default of defence, in an amount to be determined by the Court.
The Judge ordered that Kaieteur News and its editor-in-chief, Adam Harris, be restrained, whether by themselves or their servants and/or agents from posting, printing, publishing, sharing, reproducing or otherwise recreating and disseminating the headline and article “Attorney convicted of fraud in Canada, appointed Senior Counsel” and any offending words, sentencing, phrase and statements or similar words defamatory to Poonai.
Additionally, an order was made of the article to be removed from the Kaieteur News website and its online e-paper.
Poonai is expected to file all the witnesses’ statements in the form of affidavits upon which he intends to rely for the assessment of damages for submission by September 20, 2019.
However, the assessment of damages hearing is fixed for October 10, 2019.
Poonai is seeking $30 million for the libellous publication and exemplary and aggravated damages in excess of $15M.
Poonai is also hoping to be awarded the $45M at a rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgement and thereafter at a rate of 4% per annum from the date of judgement until fully paid.
“As a result of the said headline and article and its dissemination, online and offline, by the Defendants, the Claimant’s personal and legal reputation and standing have been irreparably and severely damaged, lowered in the estimation of right-thinking members of society and the Claimant has suffered and continues to suffer financial injury, constant distress, humiliation, embarrassment, indignity, pain and suffering,” Poonai said in his court documents.
Vishnu Rajendra “Joey” Poonai, was the person who was found guilty of the offences in Canada and subsequently disbarred in Canada.
“This person has no professional relationship, close personal relationship or any association with the Claimant, his law practice or otherwise in Guyana or elsewhere and it is common knowledge or knowledge which can easily be obtained that the Claimant and Vishnu Rajendra “Joey” Poonai are two separate and distinct persons” the claimant said.