One year ago I asked: “how are we holding Vincent Nelson, the disgraced British King’s Counsel to his bargain?”
The bargain was a plea bargain made with the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP). Vincent Nelson pleaded guilty in a corruption case in which Anand Ramlogan SC, a former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago and Gerald Ramdeen, a junior counsel, were charged together with Nelson.
As a result of the plea bargain, Nelson was expected to be a witness for the prosecution against Ramlogan and Ramdeen.
A matter like that falls within the exclusive constitutional remit of the DPP. The matter should have proceeded under the direction of the DPP without attempted interference, but we crossed that line long time ago.
One year ago, there was a newspaper report that then Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, on behalf of the Government of Trinidad Tobago, had entered into an agreement with Nelson in November 2017. That gave rise to my question whether Nelson would deliver his side of the bargain.
In the same report it was confirmed that the DPP had a plea agreement with Nelson relating to the criminal proceedings but the DPP was quoted as stating that he was not a party to any discussions relating to the 2017 AG-Nelson deal. (Newsday 2 October 2021). The trouble ahead was foreseeable.
Al Rawi may not like his agreement with Nelson to be described as “secret”, but it was secret until it was revealed by the Newsday. Moreover, as readers came to learn, only last week, there were many other subsequent Al Rawi-Nelson communications taking place behind the scenes.
The DPP, commendably, made it plain to Al Rawi that he would not get involved in those dealings. See Newsday October 11, 2022 and Trinidad Express 13 October 2022.
The public has been amazed to learn that the Al Rawi-Nelson agreement contains promises made to Nelson in exchange for the use of a notarised statement from Nelson—no doubt intended to spill the beans on the co-accused. It is slowly being revealed that these may have been big money promises made to Nelson.
The correspondence between Al Rawi, when he was attorney general, and the DPP, which has been revealed in the course of last week, reeks of manoeuvering to obtain the scalps of the co-accused Ramlogan and Ramdeen at any price. The Al-Rawi-Nelson dealings might fairly be characterised as akin to bounty hunting.
The accused are divisive figures and many are vexed that the prosecutions are not going forward. However, tolerance of subversion of good governance will have negative consequences, regardless of race, shade and political party.
In these sorry circumstances we must big-up the DPP’s resistance to plea bargain deals made without reference to his office.
Nelson is now allegedly turning the deal he made with Al Rawi against the interest of the State and refusing to be a witness unless he gets the several heavy pounds of taxpayer’s flesh that appear to have been promised to him.
These are the words of the DPP as he announced to the Court last week his decision to discontinue the prosecutions:
“The State has gathered all of its evidence in this case and this case depends to a very, very, large extent on the evidence of one Vincent Nelson. I am informed by Mr Nelson through his London attorneys that, while indicating his willingness to give evidence in this matter, he has categorically stated he is not willing to do so until the conclusion of a related civil claim case he has against the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.”
It was also reported that Nelson may seek to have the High Court award him millions of dollars in damages and it is uncertain whether that includes Nelson clawing back the fine imposed on him by Justice Holdip.
It is clear that the reason why the prosecutions of the accused collapsed is that Nelson, the main witness, has tied up the State in litigation arising out of Al Rawi’s dealings with him—and in respect of which Al Rawi strayed far from his constitutional section and dealt with people who were more clever than him.