By ELIZABETH VUVU
THE Kokopo National Court has ordered the Papua New Guinea Cocoa Board and the State to pay more than K4 million to Agmark Pacific Limited for imposing illegal levy fees.
When handing down the decision last Friday, Kokopo residential judge, Justice Salatiel Lenalia ordered the sum of K4,885,260, with 8% interest to be paid to Agmark Pacific within 21 days.
This was in accordance with sect 1 (1) and (2) of the judicial proceedings (interest on debts and damages) Act.
Agmark Pacific filed the writ of summons on July 1, 2005, seeking K6,392,440 as repayment of monies which was improperly obtained by first defendants Cocoa Board supposed to be for payments of cocoa stabilisation levy from Jan 1, 1997, to Oct 31, 1999.
The cocoa stabilisation levy was declared illegal in 2004 because it was not gazetted by the minister responsible,
During this period, cocoa board and the State falsely held out to Agmark Pacific, who was a registered cocoa exporter, that a stabilisation levy was validly imposed by the Minister for Agriculture and Cocoa Board made demands that Agmark had to pay them stabilisation levies.
Justice Lenalia said the Cocoa Board was a creature of statute and must comply with directions received form the minister responsible.
He said Cocoa Board was in a better position to have warned Agmark about the lawfulness or otherwise of the levy it purportedly held out and imposed on cocoa exporters.
He said it only made sense that the monies paid into the cocoa stabilisation fund ought to be recovered in full with 1997 nominal award of K120,500, 1998 total amount paid K2,930,376 and 1999 total amount paid K1,834,383 totaling to K4,885,260.