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20 Feb 2017

The 12th Annual Hamel-Smith Appellate Mooting Competition returned to the Hugh Wooding Law School, with the Final Round taking place on Friday 17th February, 2017.

Appearing for the Appellant, Deebote Company Limited, were Joshua Hamlet, Khadine Harvey and Juval Daniel, while Joash Huggins, Desiree Valentine and Mariah Celestine appeared for the Respondent, the Board of Inland Revenue.

The Appellant and Respondent were given the opportunity of arguing their cases before a panel of judges comprising the Honourable Mr. Justice Peter Rajkumar, Judge of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago, and experienced practitioners, Mr. Kerwyn Garcia and Mr. Colin Kangaloo. The mooters benefited from the wisdom and experience of the panel, and were treated to a trial by fire which offered a revelation into the level of advocacy and composure befitting an actual trial before the Court of Appeal.

The Hugh Wooding Law School Court of Appeal, acting as the final Appellate Court in Trinidad and Tobago in the moot, was tasked with hearing an appeal from the Court of Appeal concerning certain contracts and subcontracts entered into by the Appellant for the application of antifouling coating for BPS & Co. Ltd, the ultimate beneficiary of the coating. The court was also tasked with interpreting the meaning of the word “recipient” under Schedule 2 of the Value Added Tax Act, Chapter 75:06 (the “VAT Act”), to determine whether the services performed by the Appellant was zero-rated under Schedule 2. The relevant section under Schedule 2 states, “any services which are supplied for a consideration that is payable in a currency other than that of Trinidad and Tobago to a recipient who is not in Trinidad and Tobago at the time when the services are performed.”

On initial appeal to the Court of Appeal, the Court held that the contracts and subcontracts amounted to a deliberate and convenient structure implemented to avoid the taxation provisions of the VAT Act. In relation to the second point, the Court held that the “recipient” was BPS & Co. Ltd., as the beneficiary of the services provided. This meant that the services of the Appellant were not zero-rated.

At the final Appellate stage, the Appellant argued that the Court of Appeal erred in law since there was both insufficient evidence and no statutory power under the VAT Act for the Court to consider and rule that a structure or series of contracts was a device to avoid taxation. The Appellant’s second ground of appeal was that the Court of Appeal misdirected itself in interpreting “recipient” as it did, since the recipient was the person to whom the Appellant was obligated to provide the commercial supplies, the person to whom the Appellant was obligated to provide the tax invoice, and the person obligated to pay the Appellant sums in settlement of the tax invoice.

The Hugh Wooding panel of judges were of the opinion that both the Appellant and Respondent teams displayed strong advocacy skills and maturity, and adequately manoeuvred and responded to the questions posed by the judges. However, the judges stressed the immutable importance that skeleton submissions play not only in a moot competition, but also in practice. In the end, the judges ruled in favour of the Appellant who was judged to have persuaded them with their arguments.

Both finalists teams were congratulated by the firm’s Managing Partner, Mrs. Nicole Ferreira-Aaron, who ppresented each mooter with a token on behalf of the firm. The Appellant, as the winning team, was awarded  the 2017 Hamel-Smith Challenge Trophy.

Mrs. Ferreira-Aaron congratulating wJoshua Hamlet, Khadine Harvey and Juval Daniel.
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