State urges judge – Keep Vincent Nelson file sealed

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Vincent Nelson

THE STATE is strenuously resisting any application to have the civil claim filed by King’s Counsel Vincent Nelson unsealed.

Nelson’s claim came up for hearing on Tuesday. He wants $96 million in compensation for an alleged breach of an indemnity agreement to protect him from prosecution.

The Attorney General has filed a counter-claim which seeks to have every cent paid out to him returned to the State’s coffers.

Justice Jacqueline Wilson has been assigned the case and Tuesday’s hearing was held virtually but in private before the judge, as the matter has been sealed.

Nelson has since asked for his claim to be unsealed so its contents can be made public.

However, the State is resisting any such application and has presented to the judge reasons why it should remain sealed.

Kendra Mark-Gordon, instructing attorney from the Chief State Solicitor’s department, has cited the “extensive and sustained public debate” on the matter and the position of the Director of Public Prosecution Roger Gaspard, SC, on the criminal prosecution of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen as the chief reasons for not wanting the file unsealed.

Mark-Gordon referred to Gaspard’s statements on October 10, 2022, when he made the shocking announcement that he had decided to discontinue the criminal proceedings against the two men because of Nelson’s refusal to give evidence at their preliminary inquiry until his civil claim for the alleged breach of the indemnity agreement was completed.

Gaspard also said then that his office was retaining the option to have the charges reinstated when Nelson’s civil claim came to an end.

Mark-Gordon said the civil claim could be determined expeditiously.

She also maintained that the State was “anxious to avoid extensive and sustained public debate on the pleadings and evidence in this matter,” since they were very likely to form “a significant part” of the evidence in any future prosecution.

“Self-evidently, if there is extensive and sustained public debate, the fairness of any criminal trial may be compromised and the pre-trial publicity may be relied on by Mr Ramlogan, SC, and Mr Ramdeen as the basis for any stay of any future prosecution,” she warned.

“It is imperative that any future criminal trial should be fair and based solely on the evidence adduced in the case.

“The possibility of such extensive and sustained debate is extremely high,” she maintained.

Nelson filed his claim alleging breach of an indemnity agreement with the Government to protect him from criminal prosecution and possible proceedings outside Trinidad and Tobago in exchange for a statement alleging a legal-fees kickback scheme with Ramlogan and Ramdeen.

Ramlogan was accused of receiving payment from Nelson after the AG’s Office awarded him a number of state briefs, while Ramdeen was alleged to have facilitated the payments from Nelson to Ramlogan.

Nelson claims because of his conviction for his part in the alleged conspiracy, he can no longer work as a tax attorney in the UK or elsewhere. He also wants the State to indemnify him for the $2.25 million fine ordered by the High Court when he was sentenced in March 2020.

Nelson has since benefited from several extensions for the payment of fines. The latest extension, to April 30, 2023, was announced in a practice direction issued by the Chief Justice for all fines and compensation due between March 16, 2020 and March 31, 2023.

For the conspiracy to commit an act of corruption, Nelson was fined $250,000 and was given two months, starting at the end of April 2020, in which to pay or serve three years of hard labour. On the money-laundering charge, he was fined $2 million, which is to be paid in ten instalments, or will serve five years’ hard labour. He was also put on a $250,000 bond for three years, as the judge who sentenced him, Justice Malcolm Holdip, agreed to no jail time for him.