(Trinidad Guardian) Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was arrested at the Piarco airport early yesterday, and Gerald Ramdeen, a UNC colleague, was taken in custody by anti-corruption police who are investigating allegations of kickbacks and money laundering linked to high legal fees paid during the attorney general’s tenure.
Ramlogan was detained at the Piarco International Airport around 4:15 a.m. shortly before he was expected to board a flight to the British Virgin Islands, where he was scheduled to appear in court.
Former UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen turned himself into officers attached to the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB) in Port of Spain.
For the last few years, investigators have been looking into hefty sums of money paid out by the AG’s office to a “favoured few,” according to senior government minister Stuart Young. Under Ramlogan’s tenure, more than $1 billion was paid to a handful of people in the legal profession. That figure ballooned from about $40 million during the previous administration.
Both Ramlogan and Ramdeen have previously denied any wrongdoing.
Ramlogan had sued then Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in 2012 after he questioned him about the massive payments by the attorney general’s office. Ramlogan later dropped the lawsuit.
The arrests of Ramlogan and Ramdeen are the first action into seven active investigations involving legal fees approved by Ramlogan. Ramdeen, a former UNC senator received a substantial portion of those fees.
Yesterday’s arrests were directly linked to a statement given by a British Queen’s Counsel who received several high profile cases during Ramlogan’s tenure.
“Shockwaves will be going through the legal fraternity all now,” said a senior official close to the investigation.
Reacting to the arrests, the UNC said it was not privy to the details of the allegations.
“We have no doubt that this desperate and failing Rowley administration is searching for a way to distract the public’s attention away from their record of failure over the last four years,” the UNC said in a statement. “The Rowley administration is characterised by incompetence, corruption, massive unemployment and runaway crime.”
Guardian Media was told that a team of officers searched Ramlogan’s home in Palmiste near San Fernando while he was being detained at the airport.
An airport insider told Guardian Media that Ramlogan was approached by one officer attached to the Traffic Index, which is the akin to Special Branch Police, and two officers attached to the ACIB. Ramlogan complied with officers and was not handcuffed.
At 7 a.m Ramdeen turned himself in to ACIB and is currently being questioned.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith would not say what the men were being questioned about.
“Cannot give further details at this time but ACIB spearheading investigation,” Griffith said.
Ramlogan was due to travel to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for a judicial review matter in which he was representing the BVI Speaker of the House of Assembly, Julian Wilcox.
Neither Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi nor Minister of National Security Stuart Young responded to questions about the matter.
Ramlogan is already before the court charged with misbehaviour in public office and perverting the course of justice in relation to an allegation that he attempted to get David West, the Director of t he Police Complaints Authority to withdraw a statement in a defamation lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley against the former attorney general.
Back in 2016, Rowley hinted that Ramdeen was under criminal investigation. According to reports at that time, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said Ramdeen and attorney Wayne Sturge amassed a bill of State briefs from the AG’s office, amounting to more than $26 million and $10 million, respectively. Those briefs were granted at the time that Ramlogan sat as Attorney General.
Al-Rawi said then while he could not give a time frame as to when the audit would be completed he said it primarily focused on the “value for money “principle regarding the hiring of State attorneys.
Sturge, according to reports this morning, is representing Ramdeen while he is being questioned by ACIB officers.
UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she could not comment with any authority on the arrests. She noted that when allegations were made against Ramlogan, she asked him to step aside in early 2015 “so that the government could function.”
“I subscribe to the rule of law,” she said. “I do not condone wrongdoing. I cannot be judge, jury and prosecutor in any matter.”
Persad-Bissessar said she had taken similar against former Minister Jack Warner when allegations of financial impropriety were made against him.
“That is my modus operandi,” she said.
Asked if the arrests yesterday represented an indictment of her government, Persad-Bissessar said: “Not at all. I always remember something that my former leader told me. He said Jesus Christ had 12 disciples and in the end of the day almost all of them betrayed him.”
She said the Rowley government had failed to take similar action and had not revealed key details of a PNM minister accused of wrongdoing.
Persad-Bissessar said the country was currently racked by crime involving “orphaned children toting guns,” rampant water shortages and other serious matters.
She accused the PNM of trying to distract the nation from its own shortcomings.
“It’s election season guys,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Reporters gathered at the Port of Spain Magistrates Court, anticipating a court appearance by the state’s cooperating witness. When the court closed its doors for the day the day, no one had appeared. Court workers said they were not asked to stay open to facilitate a later appearance.
Guardian Media understands that the State has retained Queen’s Counsel Edward Jenkins from England to prosecute the case. Jenkins was sworn into the local bar yesterday.