For the past 20 years, successive PNM Administrations have kept up the rhetoric that UNC financiers being charged in The Piarco Airport Development Project Scandal, but the reality is that these PNM/UNC financiers will more or less be “walking free” thanks to PNM legal representation. The reality is that prior to becoming UNC financiers in 1995, these appellants were all PNM financiers!
The Privy Council’s judgement in favor of Messrs Smith, Kuei Tung et al into four sets of fraud charges related to the Piarco Airport Development Project has been sent back to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the State’s case may have to begin all over again, after almost two decades.
How will DPP Gaspard respond to this ruling is anybody’s guess but I am sure there will be a great deal of “enthusiasm” by lawyers on both sides as these “legal briefs” will continue to cost both the Appellants and Defendants millions of dollars.
The Privy Council’s judgement highlighted another glaring issue – the legal representation of the parties appearing before the Court. On page 2 of the Judgment is the list of attorneys who appeared on behalf of both parties.
The Appellant’s Lead Attorney was Fyard Hosein, SC. For the past seven years, Hosein has been the PNM’s lawyer of choice. Former AG Faris Al-Rawi disclosed in Parliament that Hosein received in excess of $10M in legal briefs from the AG’s Office alone. If you add work from state enterprises and other Ministries, the figure is likely to be much higher.
Has the feeding frenzy over “legal briefs” from the AG begun?
Earlier this week, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal revealed she sought legal advice from attorneys in London and Miami as well as from Attorney Kerwyn Garcia whom she describes as a competent and experienced attorney.
What exactly was the cost of securing these “legal opinions” from Garcia and the attorneys in Miami and London? And why was it necessary to seek opinions from abroad; aren’t there competent attorneys in T&T to render such opinions?
Apart from Hosein, AG Reginald Amour SC also represented and defended the corruption-accused in the Piarco Airport matter whilst he was in private practice. The political irony of the PNM prosecuting and the PNM defending whilst all the while spinning the narrative that these are “UNC financiers charged in The Piarco Airport Development Project Scandal”.
The reality is that prior to becoming UNC financiers in 1995, these appellants were PNM financiers. In the same matter with different pleadings before a Miami Court, some of the appellants who are the defendants had a “victory” last month when the Court disqualified AG Amour and Sequor Law Firm from representing TT in the proceedings against the defendants Kuei Tung et al.
Armour was appointed by Prime Minister Keith Rowley as AG earlier this year. Prior to being appointed AG, Armour was the Attorney on record for defendant Brian Kuei Tung on this matter.
From Defense Attorney, Armour as AG was now the Appellant and did not deem to necessary to immediately recuse himself as he was now faced with a most glaring conflict of interest.
It was his former clients who went to Court in Miami and asked the court to have Armour disqualified; not only was Armour disqualified, but also Sequor Law Firm which has been paid tens of millions of dollars by taxpayers since 2004.
The Court rejected Armour’s affidavit in which he said in representing Kuei Tung, he was a “junior counsel” and, therefore, basically a “note-taker” and “researcher.”
For the past 20 years, successive PNM Administrations have kept up the rhetoric about UNC financiers being charged in The Piarco Airport Development Project Scandal, but the reality is these PNM/UNC financiers will/can more or less be “walking free” thanks to PNM legal representation.
Armour was very disingenuous when he told the media, “I do not intend to give anyone another Section 34 opportunity to derail the trials that are taking place in Miami for another 10 years.”
No Mr AG, it was the political actions and interference of former PNM Attorney General John Jeremie, the Manning-led PNM Administration and former Chief Magistrate McNichols who can be credited with the turns of directions this case is heading.
Once again, thanks to the PNM, the people of T&T has been denied justice.
Commentary by Capil Bissoon, July 1 2022