T&T AG delegates certain functions to enable email probe

(Trinidad Guardian) Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has temporarily relinquished his responsibilities for the Central Authority, paving the way for the police investigating the e-mail matter to seek foreign assistance if they need it. Sources said yesterday that Ramlogan wrote to the head of the Central Authority, Netram Kowlessar, last month recusing himself from all duties and responsibilities affiliated with the investigation of the 31 e-mails raised by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament, and delegated all responsibilities to Kowlessar.

Kowlessar, the T&T Guardian learnt, in response to the AG’s letter, which was dated May 21, queried whether Ramlogan was sure he wanted to shift such a responsibility to him. The AG said yes. Under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, the AG “may delegate any of his functions under this act to any public officer or legal officer employed in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.”

The AG’s recusal now means Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson and his investigative team can go through the Central Authority to seek assistance from foreign parties. There had been a call from several quarters, both legal and political, for Ramlogan to step aside  during the investigation, since via the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), his office would have liaised with some of the international bodies the police would seek assistance from.

Calls to Ramlogan’s cellphone yesterday were not answered, but when the T&T Guardian contacted Kowlessar yesterday, he directed all calls to Ramlogan. “I would prefer not to comment. Seek a comment from the AG,” Kowlessar said. Asked whether any requests had come to the Central Authority seeking the invocation of the MLAT, Kowlessar said: “At this point in time, no written request has been made.”

He added that he would have to treat with such a request if it came. “Requests are confidential and we will not be making pronouncements where this is concerned,” he said. “It’s something not really published or advertised because of the level of confidentiality, hence the reason you will not get a release from the Central Authority stating this. It will not be proper for the Central Authority to make such statements because of the level of confidentiality.”

Two of the e-mail server domains which the police will have to probe—Gmail and Yahoo— are owned by companies based in the United States. On May 22, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, also recused himself because he too was named in the e-mails, which Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed were fed to him by a whistle-blower.

Gaspard, in a release then, said he felt duty-bound to do this “so that the public may feel that justice has not only been done, but is seen to be done.” He delegated the task of advising the police in this matter to one of his deputies, Joan Honore-Paul. Gaspard also said the e-mails presented by Rowley in Parliament required experts experienced “in both forensic analysis in the relevant foreign jurisdiction as well as in the conducting of investigations in matters of this type.”

The police have said they would be willing to seek assistance from their foreign counterparts if needed.

What is the MLAT

Under the MLAT between the US and another country, the treaty defines how each country will assist the other in legal matters such as criminal investigations. Through this treaty, a foreign government can ask the US government for assistance in obtaining evidence from entities in the US, including companies like Google or Yahoo.

Background

The 31 e-mails were purported to be from addresses belonging to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, AG Anand Ramlogan, Local Government and Works Minister Suruj Rambachan and national security adviser to the PM, Gary Griffith. The e-mail addresses given were anan@gmail.com, kamlapb1@gmail.com, surujrambachan@hotmail.com, captaingarygriffith@hotmail.com and anand@tstt.net.tt.

The e-mails were made public by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley during a motion of no confidence against the PM three Mondays ago. They allegedly exposed a criminal conspiracy to discredit and possibly physically harm a journalist who broke the Section 34 story, to offer the DPP a judgeship to get him out of office and to accept payment from an unnamed person in exchange for freedom in relation to the Section 34 fiasco.

After Rowley’s disclosure, Persad-Bissessar and her Government denied any knowledge of the e-mails. The PM wrote to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams asking for them to be probed. Williams mandated DCP Richardson to head the probe.

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