Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi was wrong when he claimed that the preliminary inquiry into witness tampering allegations against his predecessor Anand Ramlogan was expected to begin yesterday.
When the case was called in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle and Ramlogan’s defence attorney Pamela Elder, SC, both expressed shock over Al-Rawi’s claims, made at a press conference last Monday.
“It was news to me,” Busby-Earle-Caddle said as the issue was raised by Elder.
Elder called on Al-Rawi to apologise over the claim, as she suggested it gave citizens a legitimate expectation the case would begin.
She also claimed it was prejudicial to Ramlogan, as citizens may believe the start of the case was delayed by him.
In her brief submissions, Elder noted that the State was not even ready to proceed in the case, as it was still in the process of filing witness statements.
She also questioned why State prosecutors only recently filed statements for Al-Rawi and Police Complaints Authority (PCA) director David West, as they had made the allegations against her client four years ago.
Al-Rawi mentioned that he was scheduled to sign his statement last Monday while speaking at the press conference.
“I’ll be signing, at the request of the police, a witness statement on that matter immediately after this press conference,” he said.
When asked by Busby-Earle-Caddle to explain why the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) failed to meet her previous deadlines for filing the statements, prosecutor Mauriceia Joseph claimed the witnesses were ill.
Busby-Earle-Caddle gave the DPP’s Office until April 18 to comply and noted that she would not allow the State to file them past the new deadline unless it could bring evidence to justify another extension.
Ramlogan is charged with misbehaviour in public office and with obstructing justice. He is accused of obstructing justice by using threats and bribery in October 2014 to persuade West to not give evidence in a defamation case he (Ramlogan) filed against then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
He is also accused of misbehaviour in public office by improperly endeavouring for West not to testify on Rowley’s behalf. He was placed on $350,000 bail when he first appeared in court in 2017.
Even with the charges against him, Ramlogan has continued to practice, as the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association can only take action against him in the event he is eventually convicted.
British Queen’s Counsel Edward Jenkins has been retained to prosecute the case on behalf of the State.
The case is expected to come up for another status hearing on April 30. —Derek Achong