PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday March 25, 2015, CMC – Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan has dismissed calls for a police and forensic probe into the TT$353 million (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) paid out by his office over a four year period, saying the call by two of his predecessors were nothing more than a strategy to divert attention from political issues in the country.
Senior Counsels Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and John Jeremie told a news conference late Tuesday that they took no pleasure in demanding that the police investigate the affair after media reports over the last weekend showed that in one instance, a company, Tiger capital Limited, with no legal expertise among its directors, had received TT$1.7 million last year for advice relating to mutual legal assistance by the United States.
Figures released by the government in Parliament last month showed that at least 10 lawyers benefitted from State briefs totaling TT$95.5 million for the period June 2010 to October 31, 2014.
But Ramlogan told the Trinidad Express newspaper Wednesday that the call for the probe was nothing more than an attempt to divert the public from the vote of no confidence against Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley that will be debated in Parliament later on Wednesday.
The motion, unprecedented in the Commonwealth, is being tabled by the Leader of Government Business, Dr. Roodal Moonilal. Political observers say the motion is part of the campaign ahead of the general elections expected no later than September this year.
Ramlogan, who was removed from the Cabinet by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar after the police indicated that they had launched an investigation into the former attorney general on charges of seeking to pervert the course of justice, said that the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) had “bluntly refused to answer questions about legal fees in Parliament.
“It said such information was personal and private. I have repeatedly disclosed all legal fees paid in the interest of transparency and accountability as I am confident it can withstand public scrutiny,” Ramlogan said.
He said when he became attorney general he had inherited “a large amount of unpaid legal bills, the OPV (offshore patrol vessel) arbitration and the CLICO investigation”.
He said the probes were successful resulting in the “unprecedented filing of four major claims” against the former members of the boards of four state companies.
“The attack against external counsel retained by the State during my tenure is unjustified and without
merit. The State has won over 95 per cent of the matters in which these lawyers were retained. This is a marked improvement.”
“Many statements…made during the press conference are completely false and totally baseless. I have never paid any lawyer the sum of TT$408,000 for the drafting of a pre-action letter. That is absurd and ridiculous and I reject it,” Ramlogan said, adding “ I have always said I welcome any investigation by anyone, anytime, anywhere. My position remains the same”.
Jeremie and Maharaj said that they were calling on the police to conduct the investigation “one that is adequately supported by forensic expertise into this matter to be conducted immediately.