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US judge backs Integrity body against Google
A United States federal judge has ordered Google to hand over the secret e-mail records belonging to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar so that the Integrity Commission can unravel claims of a criminal conspiracy.
The ruling from Judge William Orrick came three days after the commission filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in the Northern District of California.
A copy of the judge's ruling was posted yesterday on the Courthouse News Web site.
The judge has granted a two-week window from August 14 to allow Google to challenge his ruling.
Ramlogan disclosed for the first time last week that he too had filed a lawsuit against Google in June 2013 seeking to preserve his records to help clear his name in the E-mailgate scandal.
According to the judge's ruling, the PM has not confirmed that any of the e-mail addresses belong to her and Ramlogan denies that he has a gmail account, but has consented to search of his e-mail account at [email protected] which is controlled by Google.
According to the court document, Suruj Rambachan, now the Works and Infrastructure Minister, and Gary Griffith, now the National Security minister, have confirmed that the Hotmail accounts - [email protected] and [email protected] - belong to them and have authorised Microsoft to release their records to the Integrity Commission.
In relation to a request relating to an account bearing the address [email protected], Google has confirmed that it does not exist.
Among the factors the judge considered, according to his ruling, were
(i) whether 'the person from whom discovery is sought is a participant in a the foreign proceeding'
(ii) 'the nature of the foreign tribunal, the character of the proceedings underway abroad and the receptivity of the foreign government or the court or agency abroad to US federal court judicial assistance'
(iii) whether the request 'conceals an attempt to circumvent foreign proof gathering restricting or other policies of a foreign country or the United States' and
(iv) whether the request is 'unduly intrusive or burdensome.'
The judge concluded that the discretionary factors weighed in favour of the Integrity Commission.
He said the information being sought concerned three e-mail accounts and an affidavit to authenticate certain e-mails and one of the account holders has already given consent to access his accounts.
History of complaint
The investigation was launched after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley read an e-mail thread dating back to September 2012, purporting to be a discussion between AG Anand Ramlogan, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Minister Suruj Rambachan and then national security adviser Gary Griffith.
The contents of the e-mail, which bore similar addresses of the named politicians, disclosed a criminal conspiracy to remove the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard from office by getting the Chief Justice Ivor Archie to appoint him as a judge of the High Court, harm investigative reporter Denyse Renne, and the payment of an undisclosed sum of money to an unnamed person.
The e-mails were exchanged in the midst of the Section 34 scandal, which in effect created a law would have benefitted United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who were charged with a series of criminal offences relating to the $1.6 billion Piarco Airport Development Project.
Renne's article in the T&T Guardian prompted public outcry and the law was eventually repealed during an emergency session of Parliament.
A parallel investigation was also launched by the police and the Guardian has been reliably informed that a request to the Central Authority, a department under the Attorney General's Office, was made last month to approach the United States Justice department for assistance in obtaining the e-mail records.
In that investigation, Gaspard has been interviewed and the police have obtained an unsigned statement from Archie.
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