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Mustapha files $5M libel suit against Norton for chicken-smuggling allegations – Guyana Times

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Monday filed a lawsuit against Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton for connecting him and other senior ministry officials to a chicken-smuggling scheme from neighbouring Suriname.
Through his legal representatives Sanjeev Datadin and Khalif Gobin, Mustapha is suing Norton for libel over remarks he made about him in news releases dated December 2 and 3, 2023; and is seeking damages of more than $5 million in his individual and professional capacities.
According to Mustapha’s attorneys, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition published those media statements, which were then shared on the Opposition Facebook page – which has 134,000 followers – under the username “APNUAFC.”
The minister’s lawyers contend that the media release, dated December 3, 2023 and titled “Breaking News: Minister of Agriculture and other officials in the ministry accused of major corruption”, implies that their client and others are involved in the smuggling of chicken from Suriname; that they are the subject of a criminal investigation into this activity; and that they have obstructed the probe being done by the Police by directing the Police to permit the chicken to “pass” into Guyana.

The lawyers contend that Norton’s remarks suggest that Mustapha and other individuals are overseeing and concealing the smuggling of illicit chicken into Guyana; that the minister is unlawfully depriving Guyana of revenue and jeopardizing the prosperity of the poultry industry; that he is indifferent to the consequences of the illegality; that he is solely motivated to further the illegal chicken smuggling; and that he is personally benefitting from the chicken smuggling.
The attorneys submitted that they find offensive the statements made by Norton, which are wholly false and have no foundation in reality.

They said that on the same day the press statement went up on the APNUAFC Facebook page, their client and the Agriculture Ministry had issued a statement refuting Norton’s “malicious, false, and libellous” claims of chicken being smuggled.
Datadin and Gobin said that Norton released a second defamatory statement on December 3, 2023 in response to the ministry’s statement, rather than offering an apology and retracting the first statement he had issued, which was full of lies.
In his lawsuit, Mustapha’s legal team has described him as a distinguished public figure who has enjoyed local and international acclaim, and has experienced significant pain and embarrassment as a result of the publication of those statements, which have harmed his reputation.

In addition to damages, Mustapha is requesting an order directing Norton, his employees, agents, or anybody else, to refrain from publishing or causing to be published similar words that are defamatory of him; and they are asking that an order be issued directing him to take down the post, retract the statements, and issue an apology in a format and on terms approved by the court.
Moreover, the minister is seeking costs, interests and any further orders the court may deem just.
The minister’s Statement of Claim is expected to come up before a Judge soon.

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