Court Discharges Air Jamaica Pension Fund Trustees
The Supreme Court has ordered the discharge and indemnity of trustees of the defunct Air Jamaica Pension Fund, once all remaining accumulated funds held in trust is paid over to the court.
Those funds, net of the total sum reserved for the payment of administrative, legal, accounting and other fees and costs related to the management and administration of the pension fund, would then be turned over to the accountant general for administration, based on a ruling by Chief Justice Brian Sykes.
As of October 2017, the funds held in an interest-bearing account in trust for the benefit of unregistered beneficiaries or their estates stood at $23.63 million, while those held for registered beneficiaries of the pension fund stood at $3.17 million.
The court application was filed by attorney Julianne Mais Cox on behalf of the trustees, FirstCaribbean International Bank Jamaica, Ian Blair and Joy Charlton, who confirmed that the funds will now be administered by the accountant general. But as to whether this means all issues related to the pension fund have been wound up, Cox said that information was unknown to her, and that her role had been to ensure the trustees were legally freed of their obligations.
The Air Jamaica Pension Trust Fund was established after a landmark 1999 ruling by the Privy Council, which held that $400 million left over from employees’ pensions, after Air Jamaica was privatised, be handed over to the employees under a scheme to be managed by trustees.
The airline was acquired in 1994 by a group of private investors known as AJAG – the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group, led by Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart – but was later handed back to the State in December 2004. The Jamaican Government later sold the airline again, this time to the government of Trinidad & Tobago under a deal in which it took a 16 per cent stake in that nation’s carrier, Caribbean Airlines Limited, into which Air Jamaica had been merged.
In the two-decade-old case, the Privy Council ruled that the surplus from the contributions in the fund be divvied up among the members and their estates; that a trust be created to oversee the funds; and that surplus funds that had been paid by members to Air Jamaica should be repaid to the trustees, with interest.
Those trustees were later appointed by the Supreme Court in July 2000, and are now being discharged.
As for the remaining funds in the accounts, they are due to beneficiaries the trustees were not able to locate.