The High Court of Fiji in Lautoka has struck out and dismissed the application by the trustees of Air Terminal Services Employee Trust (ATSET) because it was “bad in law” and “weak on evidence”.
In a ruling made on February 6, the High Court ordered ATSET to pay costs to CAAF, the Attorney-General, ATS, and the ATS company secretary in the sum of $4,000.00 ($1,000.00 for each defendant).
In its application, ATSET had, inter alia, alleged that:
- the re-assignment of 51% of the shares of ATS from CAAF to the Government of Fiji in 2009 was in breach of the articles of association of ATS; and
- the articles of association of ATS which expressly permitted the removal of directors of ATS was oppressive and prejudicial to ATSET and that the removal of Jai D Singh, Manasa Ratuvili and Kevueli Tunidau from the board of directors of ATS was illegal, oppressive, null and void.
ATSET trustees Viliame Finau and Jai D Singh and filed the case against the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF), the Attorney-General on behalf of the Permanent Secretary for Economy, Air Terminal Services Limited (ATS), and the ATS company secretary.
With respect to the claim against the re-assignment of 51% of ATS shares from CAAF to the Government, the High Court noted that ATSET was aware as early as October 2009 of the re-assignment, and that ATSET did not raise any objection to the re-assignment since October 2009.
As such, ATSET was estopped in law under the Limitations Act from making this claim. The High Court also noted from the evidence that ATSET had accepted and acquiesced to the re-assignment.
Furthermore, the High Court further held the re-assignment of shares from CAAF to Government did not change the shareholding of ATS as it was only an internal arrangement between two government entities which was legal and approved by Cabinet.
The High Court affirmed that Government was still the majority shareholder and that the majority shares are now held by the Ministry of Economy on behalf of Government instead of CAAF.
In response to ATSET’s claim against the removal of Jai D Singh, Manasa Ratuvili, and Kevueli Tunidau from the ATS Board of Directors, the High Court held that the removal of directors was done in accordance with the Articles of Association (AoA) of ATS, which was formulated when ATS was formed in 1980.