The following correspondence was emailed to the media today by Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj and former Attorney Generals Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and John Jeremie SC in relation to the $408 million spent on legal fees by recently departed People’s Partnership Attorney General Anand Ramlogan:
When the PNM was in power, I was the President of the local chapter of the Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and an executive member of the largest and most powerful Hindu organisation, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sahha.
I received numerous complaints of victimization and discrimination from members and was forced to take legal action on their behalf. I paid a dear price for this and, as the pressure mounted at the NLCB, I was forced to seek protection from the courts personally.
Together with Chandresh Sharma, I filed many cases under the Freedom of Information Act and under the constitution for breach of the right to equality of treatment. In all these cases, external lawyers were retained by the state. It was clear that the work went to a small handful of PNM lawyers. It is a matter of public record that Anand Ramlogan fought and won all these landmark discrimination cases on our behalf.
Strangely, there were no complaints back then. No one complained when the brother and husband of the Minister of Legal Affairs were being retained. And no one complained about their fees regardless of how high they were.
Apparently, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj had lost his voice then and he appears to have now lost his memory. He is the latest attack dog and poster boy for the PNM and Rowley’s new tag-team partner.
AG Nicholas has explained the human administrative error that led to the duplication in legal fees paid to some Attorneys. That has been clarified but Ramesh and Jeremie is calling for a police probe. In the interest of fairness, I intend to write the Commissioner of Police to demand a similar police investigation into the retainer of lawyers by Ramesh and Jeremie when they served as AG. I would be asking the police to investigate the following:
- The millions of dollars in legal work Ramesh’s ex-law firm (which was run by his wife Lynette Maharaj SC) received from the state sector when he was AG
- The number of matters settled by the state/ state sector in which Ramesh’s ex-firm was involved while he was AG
- The high legal fees charged by the British Queens Counsel whom he frequently retained and whether any of them did work for his ex-law firm whilst he was AG
- The millions of dollars Jeremie’s ex-law firm received in legal work from the state sector while he was AG
- The external retainer of the Minister of Legal Affair’s husband (Kerwin Garcia) and brother (Collin Kangaloo) and the amount of money paid to them and whether this was disclosed to the Integrity Commission
- The exorbitant fees paid to a small handful of lawyers who were invariably retained to represent the AG including Stuart Young and Michael Quamina, Ian Benjamin, Reginald Armourer SC and Douglas Mendes SC.
- Whether his vehicle was purchased by one of these very lawyers to whom he gave lucrative legal work
- Whether any of these lawyers did work for his ex-firm while he was AG and was briefing them on behalf of the State
- The high legal fees paid out in the Sat Sharma and Basdeo Panday fiascos.
- The legal fees charged by Jeremie to the THA and POS City Corporation for legal work in the last 5 years
AG Nicholas has said the external lawyers retained by the state have been successful in 95% of the cases they fought. Under the PNM, this figure is probably reversed. I certainly won 95% of the cases I filed against the external lawyers Jeremie and Louis Lee Sing retained. The attack on the lawyers and Anand Ramlogan by Ramesh and Jeremie is malicious and politically biased.
In the document laid in parliament, Stuart Young is listed as billing $440,883.30 in one case. Not a beep from Ramesh and Jeremie.
The discussion on legal fees is biased. Fair and informed commentary must involve a discussion on the value of the claims against the state, the success rate of the attorneys retained, the amount of legal costs awarded in the favour of the state and the amount of money recovered. Ramlogan has spent millions to recover billions from PNM officials and Ramesh is a PNM political distraction with no credibility.
Minister of Food Production
Former President GOPIO
Former President ITEC
Executive Member SDMS
We have noted the predictable attempts by a Government minister and close associate of the former Attorney General Mr Ramlogan to belatedly seek to rehash old allegations made against us and to seek to divert the attention of the public from the half a billion dollar spending spree in the office of the Attorney General over the past four years.
While we welcome police attention we should like to remind the public that these predictable attacks have been raised and investigated before.
The spending patterns in the office of the Attorney General over the past four years have not been investigated before and we reiterate our position that there is now sufficient information in the public domain to suggest that this should be done immediately.
In the case of Mr Lawrence Maharaj SC an allegation was made by Mrs Persad Bissessar after he demitted office that he had broken the law by hiring a Forensic Specialist through the AGs office to probe allegations of wrongdoing and that the firm from which he had resigned did legal work for State Enterprises after he became Attorney General.
In the case of Mr Jeremie a formal complaint was made by Mr Devant Maharaj himself to the Integrity Commission that during the tenure of Mr Jeremie as Attorney General the law firm from which he had resigned did legal work for State Enterprises.
The allegation against Mr Lawrence Maharaj was investigated by the police and the then Director of Public Prosecutions dismissed the complaint.
In the case of Mr Jeremie the Integrity Commission to whom Mr Devant Maharaj had complained dismissed the complaint after a thorough investigation.
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC
John Jeremie SC
19th April 2015.