[UPDATED] Law Association clears junior AG over Piarco comments

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Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal at a media briefing, Government Campus Plaza, Port of Spain on Wednesday. Photo by Sureash Cholai

THE council of the Law Association (LATT) on Thursday cleared Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal of the Opposition’s allegations of possibly trying to influence the future decisions of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over the Piarco airport corruption case, known as Piarco 1.

Last Monday the UK-based Privy Council on Monday quashed the Piarco 1 criminal case by saying then Chief Magistrate, the late Sherman McNicolls, had been “hopelessly compromised” by then attorney general John Jeremie’s help to get a Clico company to re-purchase McNicolls’ land for $400,000. It now falls to DPP Roger Gaspard SC to decide whether or not to re-start the case – based on factors such as public interest, cost, likely outcome, and fairness to the accused.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Sagramsingh-Sooklal disclosed a preliminary legal opinion from attorney Kerwyn Garcia, the husband of Senate president Christine Kangaloo, listing the DPP’s options, which included restarting the preliminary enquiry after 22 years before a different magistrate.

On Wednesday, in a statement Gaspard, said the decision was still under review.

Also on Wednesday, Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally called Sagramsingh-Sooklal’s statements about ensuring the Piarco accused were brought to trial “a shocking and blatant attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

The Law Association issued a statement at 7.32 pm on Thursday, after viewing a recording of Sagramsingh-Sooklal’s briefing.

“We have not been able to detect any effort on her part to suggest what course of action the DPP should take in relation to Piarco 1, far less any attempt to put undue pressure on him to make a decision one way or the other. We have noted a press release by the DPP setting out the factors he will take into account in deciding his next step.

“We expect that he will make his decision in accordance with his accustomed deliberation and independence.”

LATT said the DPP’s independence is buttressed by his financial security and security of tenure under the Constitution.

“He is expected not to succumb to pressure of any sort from any quarter, and it would be wrong for anyone to seek to exert undue pressure on him in order to influence any decision he might make. “But that does not mean that there is any prohibition against anyone, including from the office of the Attorney General, expressing a view as to how the DPP should exercise his powers in any particular case. The DPP has a constitutional function to perform and must have the character and fortitude to perform that function independently and fairly. The DPP cannot be expected to be oblivious to or insulated from the views of others. But he must do his duty, regardless of those views.”

On May 2, a US judge automatically disqualified AG Reginald Armour, SC, as the chief litigant against former government minister Brian Kuei Tung and others charged in an 18 year old multi-million-dollar civil-asset forfeiture case, due to Armour’s previous role as Kuei Tung’s counsel.

Armour has said he had a lapse in memory about the extent of his role as Kuei Tung’s lawyer and was never given the opportunity to correct the court’s record.

The state has appealed the decision to strike out the law firm but not the decision to disqualify Armour.

Armour replaced Faris Al-Rawi on March 16 in a surprise Cabinet reshuffle, but since then Al-Rawi has taken over Armour’s role in the Miami case he (Al-Rawi) had pursued for seven years before.


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