Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley does not see any similarities between the matter brought up by MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and the longstanding emailgate issue.
During his Budget contribution on Tuesday night, Moonilal read into the Hansard the details of an email which purportedly linked a financial transaction between A&V Drilling and the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister denied this allegation at a press conference yesterday and instructed his lead lawyer, Michael Quamina, to take action against Moonilal and other individuals who have since made statements in relation to the matter outside the House. (See pages A4 & A5)
But although Rowley’s legal action against the Oropouche East MP is unprecedented, this is not the first time that the printed page of an email containing damning information involving a government minister was brought before Parliament.
Back in 2013, when in opposition, it was Rowley who brought a series of printed emails to Parliament and under the cover of privilege, read out the details of 31 email exchanges purportedly between the then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, attorney general Anand Ramlogan, national security advisor Gary Griffith and government minister Suruj Rambachan. In those emails read into Hansard, Rowley detailed a plot to harm a journalist and payment of money to buy freedom for an unnamed person.
Back then, Persad-Bissessar referred the matter to the Commissioner of Police, Director of Public Prosecutions and the Integrity Commission. Ramlogan had then said that the email purported to be his did not exist.
Reminded of this yesterday, Rowley dismissed any suggestion that both matters bear a resemblance.
“Similarities? What similarity do you see here, except that it happened in the Parliament?” Rowley said in a text exchange.
He said he saw substantial differences.
“1. I received documents ANONYMOUSLY.
2. I reviewed their contents and given the sensitive nature I sought an audience with His Excellency the President and asked that the Integrity Commission INVESTIGATE the matters.
3. President Maxwell Richards passed the emails to the I.C. TO BE INVESTIGATED.
4. After six (6) months and no investigation was commenced I, under my duty as an MP, informed the public of this state of affairs by filing, in the Parliament, a SUBSTANTIVE MOTION, for debate calling for a Police INVESTIGATION!!”
Rowley added, “In the current situation, Moonilal does not file a motion. He is not asking for an investigation. He claims that he HAS DONE THE investigation.”
Rowley said Moonilal claims his “sojourn to Miami revealed a bank with documents involving me.”
“This means he is the owner of what he said and only he has such documents and only he pieced the two documents to allow him to cement his allegations,” Rowley said.
“He is so satisfied that he is in possession of documents that show that there is evidence of my involvement that he has come outside the Parliament to continue his libel and slander which hitherto he propagated under Parliamentary privilege.”
In 2015, two years into the investigations, investigators questioned the six-month delay that Rowley held back the documents from the public domain. In 2017, after years of investigations, it was revealed on a crime programme that the police probe into the emailgate matter had found” nothing of substance”. Persad-Bissessar had called for Rowley to resign after that announcement.
The Emailgate allegations were first made public by Dr Keith Rowley on May 20, 2013, when he read in Parliament a thread of 31 email messages purporting to be a conversation between four people, whose email accounts bore striking similarities to those of the then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then attorney general Anand Ramlogan, then national security advisor Gary Griffith and then government minister Suruj Rambachan.
The conversation focused on the publication of a story in the T&T Guardian newspaper about the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offence) Amendment Act on August 31, 2012; a conspiracy to murder investigative reporter Denyse Renne, who had been pursuing the story, and the removal of the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, from office, among other illegal and nefarious acts.
The proclamation of Section 34 sparked widespread outrage and a spontaneous public demonstration, as it was viewed as specially crafted legislation to benefit United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are charged with a series of criminal offences relating to the $1.6 billion Piarco Airport Development Project.
In the face of the outcry, the then Persad-Bissessar government convened an emergency hearing of Parliament in early September 2013 and repealed the law.
Former High Court judge and then justice minister Herbert Volney, who introduced Section 34 to the legislation, which in effect provided an escape clause for people charged with serious crimes, including fraud, to seek a dismissal if their cases were not determined within ten years, was fired.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson remain wanted in the United States for fraud offences relating to the same project but a High Court judge ruled that the proper forum for them to face trial was in T&T. The State never challenged the High Court ruling.
The Privy Council last month reserved its decision on a challenge filed by two of the Piarco defendants which challenged the repeal of Section 34 as unconstitutional.
In May 2015, the Integrity Commission closed its parallel investigation into the matter, saying there were “insufficient grounds” to pursue the probe. That statement triggered the sudden resignation of deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission Sebastian Ventour, a retired High Court judge and fellow commissioner Shelly-Anne Lalchan.
Ventour went on to criticise the commission’s chairman Zainool Hosein, a retired Appeal Court judge, saying the statement issued by the body was incorrect. He said the Emailgate investigation and the information the commission received involved just Persad-Bissessar and Ramlogan but said nothing about the other individuals (Griffith and Rambachan) also under investigation.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenn Hackett, who is overseeing the police probe into the matter, said yesterday that the investigators received the information from Hotmail in September and they were currently perusing the voluminous data.