Parliament meets today for what is described as a mere formality, to confirm Justice Paula Mae-Weekes as this country’s sixth President.
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Senate clash over corruption probes
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday told the People’s National Movement (PNM) to file a court action, as he used to do while in private practice, if they had grouses about anything and had evidence. Ramlogan made the point in the Senate, where he got into a sparring match with PNM senators.
The issue arose when Ramlogan answered a query on the so called “A-Team” of lawyers hired to investigate corruption in the state sector that allegedly took place under the PNM administration. He gave the status of some of the cases. Civil probes by the A team in the High Court were for misconduct, negligence, fraud, misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duties. Ramlogan said the status of the claim by E-Teck against Ken Julien—where E-Teck was successful—is under appeal and judgment is due on July 18.
In the $12 million claim of UTT vs Julien and others, the Appeal Court on Monday dismissed an appeal by the former UTT board members, and Ramlogan said the way is now clear to pursue the action against the defendants. Trial has been fixed for December.
In the $600 million claim against former Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) head Calder Hart, Krishna Bahadoorsingh and Leandra Rampaul over alleged mismanagement of the construction of the Brian Lara Stadium, in Tarouba, and the award of contracts to a favoured contractor, Ramlogan said this was at the disclosure stage. A case management hearing is scheduled for September.
Also, a case management conference is scheduled to be held tomorrow on the $1.2 billion claim by Petrotrin against former CEO Malcolm Jones on the Gas to Liquids Plant issue.
Ramlogan gave the genesis of some of the cases and PNM senator Camille Robinson-Regis expressed concern that the Attorney General would be getting into sub-judice territory in his discourse. Ramlogan replied that he was giving a status report on the matters before the court and was not saying anything that would have an impact on the cases. Opposition senator Stuart Young also expressed concern on the sub-judice aspect, saying he represented a client against whom one of the State’s cases has been brought.
Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith said the AG was giving a status report and wouldn’t embark on issues related to the facts of the matter. Ramlogan later had to withdraw a remark that Young was in a conflict of interest concerning his client in the case. The PNM’s Faris Al-Rawi also claimed the AG was discussing aspects of the cases. But Ramlogan said he had no intention of falling into a trap by making statements in Parliament on the cases which might later be used against the state in the court proceedings.
Al-Rawi asked if the AG would also recruit the A-Team to probe issues in government like the National Quarries, contracts awarded to Super Industrial Services (SIS), National Gas Company and others the PNM has raised. Ramlogan said when he was in private practice he filed a court action against the PNM Government for people including Marlene Coudray and Devant Maharaj, which he had won.
He said issues could also be taken to the Integrity Commission, the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He said the A-Team’s work would lead to the recovery of millions of dollars for T&T since legal claims being sought by the State totalled over $2 billion. Al-Rawi asked if the A-team’s mandate included the “failure of state enterprises to deal with a terrible, sickening problem of rat infestation.”
Ramlogan replied, “I want to advise him I have the address and number of Rentokil, if he’s so interested.”