BIZVI Owner Claims Defamation, Plans Lawsuit Against Government

The owner of a company fighting with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles over its contract to upgrade drivers licenses is threatening to sue the acting BMV director for defamation for saying the contract was under investigation, according to documents released by his attorney.

BIZVI is a St. Thomas-based company that provides network programming, website design and custom programming, among other services to both government agencies and private businesses. Its president and chief executive officer is Syed Gilani, who was born in Pakistan and studied at Harvard University, where he earned a master’s degree in international relations. He became a U.S. citizen in 2010.

In 2011 the Government of the Virgin Islands contracted with BIZVI to build a software program to bring the territory’s drivers license system into compliance with the federal RealID standard.

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Friday, acting BMV Director Lawrence Olive said the upgrades mandated by the Real ID Act were almost complete, but were at a standstill over a dispute with the company about some final items.

Olive gave few details, but said "there is an investigation in progress." (See Related Links below.)

Wednesday, Gilani’s attorney Kye Walker released a letter declaring Gilani’s "intention to file suit" against the BMV and the V.I. government, along with a notarized draft of the complaint that could be filed with the court. Neither the letter nor the complaint indicate if the suit has in fact been filed in court to date. (See BizVI’s notice of intent to sue here.)

Gilani’s draft complaint claims Olive falsely stated "BIZVI is under federal investigation." He said his company completed the contract in 2013, but is still owed $60,000 for maintenance and support.

He also disputes that his company has closed up shop on St. Thomas, saying he still has an office at 80 Kronprindsens Gade. And he said the new licenses have "been deployed."

In the draft complaint, Gilani alleges that other BMV officials have made racist and bigoted comments toward him, and that Olive questioned the security of BMV data on the basis that Gilani’s Pakistani ethnicity made him a security risk.

The draft complaint claims that shortly after being appointed to head the BMV, Olive indicated he was going to replace BIZVI and revert to using the older drivers license system, with some modifications. It also alleges Olive told others that under the BIZVI system the V.I.’s data is maintained on a server in Dubai, while it is actually stored and maintained on a server on St. Croix.

After Olive’s Senate testimony Friday, during which he said BIZVI had closed up shop, Gilani received calls from many of his customers and potential business partners, causing both embarrassment and emotional distress, the draft complaint alleges.

The draft alleges two counts of defamation and a third of "negligent hiring" by the government, claiming "Lawrence Olive is unfit and incompetent to serve as director of the VIBMV," and his appointment to the position damaged the plaintiff.

The draft indicates that, if pursued, the legal action will seek both compensatory and punitive damages, but does not give an amount.
 

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