“There is this thinking that this is PNM country and no one has the moral legitimacy to rule this country,” Ramlogan said in the Senate during the Budget debate. “They could investigate everybody but nobody could investigate them.”
“I make no apology whatsoever for going after all those who are guilty of raping, exploiting and taking from the public purse,” he said. “The CLICO investigations that led to the present civil fraud case against Lawrence Duprey and former treasurer of the PNM Mr Andre Monteil, has thus far cost in excess of $105 million. These fees were spent by the Central Bank,” Ramlogan revealed.
He gave a rough breakdown of the expenses which included: $56 million paid to Canadian forensic investigator Bob Lindquist; $31.5 million to lawyers and $17 million to specialist fraud experts whose evidence would be required by the court. The costs do not appear to include the Clico Commission of Inquiry.
“These monies were not spent by the People’s Partnership Government, but rather the majority of these monies were spent under the tenure of the PNM,” Ramlogan revealed. Ramlogan pointed out that the Uff Commission of Inquiry under the PNM had cost $50 million. The Piarco matter has also thus far cost the State an estimated $72 million. There were other costs to inquiries into the Landate Tobago matter involving real estate and hospital works linked to Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley and into the Biche High School.
Ramlogan said the $50 million allocation for forensic investigations in his Ministry is meant to cover expenses in relation to fourteen separate forensic investigations. These include probes into: Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC); the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Sportt); Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Petrotrin); University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT); Scarborough General Hospital project; Evolving Tecknologies and Enterprise Development Company Limited (Eteck); Housing Development Corporation (HDC); Udecott and Calder Hart; National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) and the acquisition of the MV Su; the Church at the Heights of Guanapo; the sale of BWIA Heathrow slots.
“White collar crime is notoriously difficult to prove,” he said. “Often, it is an intricate web of deception spawned by complex and convoluted transactions that cross borders. The cost of investigating crimes such as deceit, conspiracy to defraud and misfeasance in public office is notoriously high. Financial crimes require specialist skills and expertise that is not resident in Trinidad and Tobago.”
For the period June 1, 2010 to August 30, 2011, Ramlogan said his Ministry has paid a total of $45.5 million in legal fees. However, of this figure, $31 million represented payment of bills left unpaid by the PNM administration. The Attorney General also said on the eve of the May 24, 2010, General Election, the previous Attorney General John Jeremie issued $20 million in payments for a wave of brand new work, leaving behind the older $31 million debt.
Additionally, Ramlogan said he got a letter, dated April 14, 2011, from the State’s attorneys at London, Charles Russell, detailing $7 million owed for matters going back to 2009.
“The firm has been very patient with the slow payment of these bills,” attorney John Ameida wrote on behalf of the firm. “There is no justification for the lack of payment.”
The top payments for legal fees, Ramlogan said, during this period were made to: Charles Russell & Co ($12.6 million); Vincent Nelson QC ($2.7 million); Astigarraga Davis ($2.4 million); AFA Law ($2.1 million); Avory Sinanan SC ($2.5 million); James Lewis QC ($1.7 million); Dana Seetahal SC ($2.2 million); Russell Martineau ($1.2 million); Alan Newman QC ($1.5 million); Douglas Mendes ($1.5 million); Fenton Ramsahoye ($1.5 million) and Kelvin Ramkissoon ($1.4 million).
“I am not going to do like the PNM and not tell you the names,” Ramlogan said, alluding to the decision of former Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George’s controversial decision in 2008 to not disclose legal fees.
Top fees for forensic investigations went to: Alix Partners ($17. 4 million); Ernst & Young ($8.6 million); Lindquist Forensic Accounting Investigations ($2.3 million). He said the State is pursuing a GBP 1 billion claim in the arbitration matter in relation to the stalled acquisition of offshore patrol vessels.