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Cops go to DPP today
Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan was under arrest last night awaiting a decision on his fate this morning.
After 12 hours of questioning following his dawn arrest by police yesterday, Ramlogan remained in custody at Police Headquarters, Port-of-Spain. This in connection with the witness-tampering allegations made against him in 2015 by Police Complaints Authority chairman David West —a probe of which now appears to have reached a head.
Last night, after prolonged questioning and copious notes supplied by Ramlogan, one of his attorneys, Gerald Ramdeen, told the T&T Guardian police were going to seek instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions. This would likely be on whether to charge Ramlogan today.
Another of his attorneys, Pamela Elder, SC, said last night that the interview process was a long, exhaustive one.
“It’s quite likely the situation will go into (today). I have no problem with the way the matter’s proceeding. It’s being done fairly,” Elder said.
The shock arrest of the former People’s Partnership AG began a day of drama for Ramlogan, his family and colleagues.
It started around 5.30 am when a large party of Fraud Squad police led by deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip, in a detail of almost ten vehicles, swooped down on Ramlogan’s Palmiste, San Fernando home.
Philip was mandated by acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams in 2015 to probe West’s allegations against Ramlogan.
Officials said the police informed Ramlogan he was under arrest as a suspect in alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice and alleged misbehaviour in public office. Executing a search warrant, they scoured his house but only confiscated his cellphone, it was confirmed.
Sources close to the family said Ramlogan’s wife Nalini remained strong in the face of the situation. But his two children, traumatised by the police “raid,” wept for their father.
The police party took Ramlogan, 45, to Police Headquarters on Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain. He was wearing a pair of jeans and shirt.
Following the long hours of questioning, in which police put over 130 questions to Ramlogan, he finished giving police a 40-page record of notes around 8.15 pm, according to attorneys. Police then proceeded to review his submission before seeking instructions last night on the next step. This will be divulged today.
DPP got QC advice
Ramlogan remained all day and last night at Police Headquarters—a building which stands behind the St Vincent Street Cabildo Building which he formerly occupied as AG in the People’s Partnership administration from 2010 to February 2015. He had to resign over West’s allegations.
Acting CoP Williams in January 2015 ordered DCP Philip to undertake the probe after West alleged Ramlogan attempted to “pervert the course of justice.”
West, in a signed statement, alleged Ramlogan “asked” him to withdraw as a witness in a matter involving then opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley (now Prime Minister). Ramlogan strongly denied this. (See box)
Less than a week after the issue broke in 2015, former PP prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar revoked the appointments of Ramlogan as well as then national security minister Gary Griffith.
Griffith had given a statement supporting West’s claim. It was alleged Griffith, on Ramlogan’s advice, telephoned West to query whether West had withdrawn his statement.
In January, the probe apparently began heightening.
DCP Philip had told the Sunday Guardian then that a number of people were interviewed and re-interviewed and he aimed to complete it this year. Philip confirmed movement on the matter, including meetings with the DPP.
The T&T Guardian last night learned the DPP had received advice on the matter from queen’s counsel for the last couple years since the issue arose.
After that period of investigations, police were instructed to take yesterday’s action.
However, sources close to Ramlogan expressed concern at the way events unfolded. They noted Ramlogan had always made it clear he would have been available for questioning.
Ramlogan treated well in custody
Last night, Ramlogan’s attorney Gerald Ramdeen said the former AG was in good spirits.
Ramdeen said Ramlogan was treated well during the detention and was allowed to speak with his family three times. Officers also allowed him to choose what he wanted to eat.
For his overnight stay at Police Headquarters, he was to be kept in a room there and was allowed to shower, sources said.
Earlier in the day, after Ramlogan’s arrival at Police Headquarters, a team of attorneys, led by Jagdeo Singh, Criston Williams and Keil Takalalsingh, arrived at 10.a30 am.
“We’ve come to see a colleague,” Singh told reporters.
They emerged from the building after half hour and left without seeing Ramlogan. Three other colleagues from the legal fraternity— including a female attorney from Ramlogan’s chambers—also arrived and stayed most of the day. Ramlogan’s attorney, Elder, arrived at 12.30 pm and left in the afternoon.
While Ramlogan’s arrest and detention was discussed by United National Congress colleagues up and down the party circuit, party activist Patsy Lawrence was the sole sign of UNC support outside Police Headquarters.
Lawrence complained bitterly at the lack of visible party support for Ramlogan, who she said was like her big brother.
“He’s stood with me, representing my daughter in an issue where several girls were beaten up in prison. He refers to me as his sister from another mother,” Lawrence said.
“For a man who’s stood up for the party, it’s really disappointing to see no UNC supporters here. It seems there are more actors than activists.”
UNC MP Roodal Moonilal said the development with Ramlogan “was a witch-hunt and deliberate attempt to distract attention from Ferrygate, Government’s bungling on the Robert Le Hunte matter and T&T’s murder rate.”
UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is expected back from the US today.
National Alliance for Reconstruction’s Wendell Eversley, who stood outside Police Headquarters all day, said, “People not stupid— this is being done to distract from Government’s problems with the ferries and the foul up with the Public Utilities Ministry and ‘Ghanaian’ Minister Le Hunte.”
HISTORY OF CASE
•In January 2015, Ramlogan denied allegations that he asked PCA head David West to withdraw his (West’s) witness statement in a defamation lawsuit Ramlogan had against then opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley.
• The lawsuit concerned comments about the controversial Section 34 issue and extradition proceedings involving businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson.
• It was alleged Ramlogan “promised” West he’d be appointed PCA director if he withdrew from the defamation matter.
• Ramlogan reportedly said he’d only become aware of West filing a witness statement in the matter when it was given to his attorneys in December 2014. He said he couldn’t have approached West in the way it was alleged since it was the President who appoints a PCA head.
• West said his recollection of what transpired was “diametrically opposed to” Ramlogan’s denial that he ever approached him.
• Then Legal affairs minister Prakash Ramadhar attempted to speak with West on the allegations. West said the PCA was an independent body, didn’t report to a minister, and it would have been inappropriate to meet.
• West reported the matter to the Police Commissioner. The CoP appointed headed by DCP Harold Philip to probe it.
• Within a week of the issue in February 2015, then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar sought the resignations of Ramlogan and Gary Griffith. She said it was alleged Griffith, on Ramlogan’s advice, telephoned West to query whether West had withdrawn a statement, that the alleged incident formed part of the police enquiry and Griffith confirmed he made the call. Persad-Bissessar said she’d read the statements from both as well as West’s reported statements and found facts conflicted.
• In January, the Sunday Guardian exclusively reported at least six ex-PP ministers were contacted by police since the probe began in 2015. Some were interviewed more than once. Those interviewed included Gary Griffith, Vasant Bharath—whom Griffith alleged was among those who “pressured” him not to support West’s complaint—Errol Mc Leod, Prakash Ramadhar and others. Ex-ministers Suruj Rambachan and Roodal Moonilal were contacted for interviews and agreed once attorneys were present.
• Also interviewed was former reporter Anika Sandiford-Gumbs, who broke the story of the allegations. She gave police recordings of a phone conversation” she had with people involved in the allegations and a “top PNM official, before she broke the story.” Recordings were played for police.
• DCP Philip said the probe had taken some time as external assistance had to be sourced from service providers to deal with phone records and other research.
• Former AG Ramlogan, a former columnist and successful attorney prior to his Government stint, returned to private practice after the PP’s 2015 election defeat. He recently helmed several cases brought by the Opposition UNC, including on the property tax forms.