Prominent Trinidad lawyers claim reputation affected by AG statements

 

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Wednesday Trinidad, November 21, 2012 – Three prominent lawyers, including a former temporary judge, say their reputations have been affected by “inaccurate” statements made in the Senate by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

In letters sent o the Senate and read into the records, the attorneys Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, Elena Arajuo and Ian Benjamin deny ever receiving fees of millions of dollars from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.

Ramlogan had told the Senate during the national budget debate last month that the lawyers, had been received the payment for the period October 2007 to July 2012.

“I wish to confirm that I did not work for the Central Bank prior to 2008 and did not receive legal feels in the sum of $17.7 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents). The figure stated by the Attorney General is overstated by a multiple of more than four,” said Armour, a former temporary judge here.

Ramlogan had also said Araujo of the law firm Araujo Law firm had been paid $11.5 million, but in her letter, the attorney said the “figure stated by the Attorney General is overstated by approximately 300 per cent.”

Ramlogan had also claimed that Benjamin received $9.3 million between October 2007 and July 2012, but the lawyer also denied the statement.

The three attorneys in their letter said their fees were in line with the tariff of legal fees entitled “Practice Guide to the Assessment of Costs” issued by then acting chief justice Roger Hamel-Smith on December 20, 2007.

“This inaccurate statement…has caused me to be held in public contempt and it also has the tendency to mislead as it suggests that I received unreasonable and excessive fees. The statements also misrepresent 30 years of a hard-earned reputation as an independent attorney, since I have received expressions of concern that my representation of clients might now be viewed as having a particular political agenda,” Armour said in his letter.

Benjamin and Araujo adopted similar positions with Araujo adding “the statement (by Ramlogan) has placed the principal attorney and staff of the firm and their families at considerable personal risk of danger from the criminal elements of our society”.

Ramlogan, who was not in the Senate when the statements were read, later told reporters that it was “curious” that while the attorneys disputed the figures they did not disclose the funds received.

“There are public funds and the figures quoted were provided by the Central Bank via the Ministry of Finance,” he said, adding that the government favoured full and frank disclosure.

“I have great respect for my colleagues and I fully appreciate that they may have grown accustomed to the PNM (opposition Peoples National Movement) policy of silence with respect to the disclosure of legal fees,” he said.

“This Government takes a different view. And any attorney who wants to work for this government, must be prepared to have their fees disclosed as I have done repeated in response to questions from the Opposition,” he told the Trinidad Express newspaper. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)