Trinidad: State moving to seize assets of lawyers in legal fees scandal

Police investigators enter former attorney general Anand Ramlogan’s Palmiste, San Fernando home on Wednesday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Gov­ern­ment will seek to push two pieces of leg­is­la­tion in the com­ing weeks to al­low the State to re­cov­er prop­er­ties and oth­er as­sets from for­mer at­tor­ney gen­er­al Anand Ram­lo­gan and UNC Sen­a­tor Ger­ald Ramdeen.

A high-rank­ing in­sid­er at the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al told Guardian Me­dia that the Gov­ern­ment in­tends to push the amend­ments to the Reg­is­tra­tion of Deeds Bill and push to have the Un­ex­plained Wealth Or­ders in re­spect of the Civ­il As­sets Bill pro­claimed to specif­i­cal­ly deal with the two men.

Both men were de­tained by of­fi­cers at­tached to the An­ti-Cor­rup­tion In­ves­ti­ga­tions Bu­reau (ACIB) for over 70 hours be­tween Wednes­day and Fri­day be­fore be­ing charged. The two are ex­pect­ed to ap­pear in court to­day.

Guardian Me­dia was told that Gov­ern­ment in­tends to push eight amend­ments to the Reg­is­tra­tion of Deeds Bill, cur­rent­ly be­fore Par­lia­ment, as it will form a ma­jor part of State’s case against Ram­lo­gan and Ramdeen.

Of the eight claus­es, it is Clause 3 which will aid the Gov­ern­ment’s case as it in­cludes two ad­di­tion­al in­dex­es for con­tracts for the sale of land and ben­e­fi­cial own­ers, “which be­comes nec­es­sary be­cause of amend­ments to the Com­pa­nies Act to deal with ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship”. An­oth­er sub-para­graph in the Bill would in­sert a num­ber of new sub­sec­tions which in­cludes pro­vi­sions to “em­pow­er the Reg­is­trar Gen­er­al to keep an­oth­er in­dex for all in­stru­ments of trusts which are reg­is­tered un­der the Reg­is­tra­tion of Deeds Act”.

Ac­cord­ing to a high-lev­el in­sid­er at the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al, the in­dex is a closed in­dex and for the pur­pose of the State’s oblig­a­tions un­der the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force. Rec­om­men­da­tions can on­ly be ac­cessed by the Di­rec­tor of the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit of T&T (the FIU) for the pur­pose of en­abling the FIU to do its analy­sis un­der the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit of T&T Act.

The in­dex will al­so be open to an of­fi­cer of the Po­lice Ser­vice of the rank of Su­per­in­ten­dent or above at­tached to the fi­nan­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions or fraud di­vi­sions, sole­ly for the pur­pos­es of in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether a crim­i­nal of­fence has been com­mit­ted un­der any law.

The in­dex is al­so open to the Chair­man of the Board of In­land Rev­enue and by or­der of the court.

Clause 4 of the bill is al­so rel­e­vant as it deals with prop­er­ties pur­chased out­side of the ju­ris­dic­tion of T&T even if it is pur­chased by a com­pa­ny or cor­po­ra­tion.

The Gov­ern­ment will al­so be mov­ing quick­ly to have the Un­ex­plained Wealth Or­ders in re­spect of the Civ­il As­sets Bill pro­claimed which will al­low the State to levy on the as­sets of those in­volved to re­cov­er mon­ey.

The high-rank­ing of­fi­cial at the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s of­fice told Guardian Me­dia that the State will move to seize the as­sets of the two men, Ram­lo­gan and Ramdeen, once giv­en the go-ahead from the courts.

The State will al­so seek to seize oth­er as­sets of both men in or­der to re­cov­er some of the $1.4 bil­lion spent un­der the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al be­tween 2010 and 2015 in le­gal fees.

“The way the law works is that pro­ceeds of crime are re­cov­er­able,” the source said.

The of­fi­cial of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s of­fice told Guardian Me­dia that the se­ries of laws passed in the past year were to deal with mat­ters just like these.

“They (Ram­lo­gan and Ramdeen) were charged un­der the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act for mon­ey laun­der­ing, if you look at Sec­tions 44 and 45, these are very se­ri­ous of­fences,” the source said.

The in­sid­er said that when the au­dit in­to the AG of­fice was com­plet­ed, it be­came “ob­vi­ous” that mon­ey was mis­man­aged.

Guardian Me­dia was al­so told that the whis­tle-blow­ing tes­ti­mo­ny by Queen’s Coun­sel Vin­cent Nel­son in­clud­ed the names of at least three oth­er lawyers who ben­e­fit­ed from le­gal briefs dur­ing the time Ram­lo­gan held of­fice.

The in­sid­er told Guardian Me­dia that of those three lawyers, there is enough in­for­ma­tion on one of them for the po­lice to act.

About the case

On May 1, Anand Ram­lo­gan was de­tained at the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port by ACIB of­fi­cers at 4.15 am and tak­en to the of­fice at 33 In­de­pen­dence Square, Port-of-Spain.

Ramdeen was told that there was a war­rant out for his ar­rest and sur­ren­dered to of­fi­cers at the same ACIB of­fice around 7 a.m that same morn­ing.

It was re­port­ed that the two were held in con­nec­tion with in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from a whistle­blow­er, Queen’s Coun­sel Vin­cent Nel­son.

Nel­son ap­peared in court on Thurs­day un­der a plea bar­gain­ing deal which will see him plead guilty to three charges and tes­ti­fy for the State against Ram­lo­gan and Ramdeen.

By Fri­day night af­ter more than 70 hours in cus­tody, it was re­port­ed that both men were charged with three of­fences of con­spir­a­cy to re­ceive fi­nan­cial re­wards.

Ram­lo­gan was placed on a $1.2 mil­lion bail, while Ramdeen was placed on a $1.5 mil­lion bail.

Crit­i­cal sec­tions of

Pro­ceeds of Crime Act

44. (1) An of­fence com­mit­ted un­der sec­tion 45 shall be known as a mon­ey laun­der­ing of­fence and the term “mon­ey laun­der­ing” shall be con­strued ac­cord­ing­ly.

(2) The of­fence of mon­ey laun­der­ing is an in­dictable of­fence.

45. (1) A per­son who knows or has rea­son­able grounds to sus­pect that prop­er­ty is crim­i­nal prop­er­ty and who—

(a) en­gages di­rect­ly or in­di­rect­ly, in a trans­ac­tion that in­volves that crim­i­nal prop­er­ty; or

(b) re­ceives, pos­sess­es, con­ceals, dis­pos­es of, dis­guis­es, trans­fers, brings in­to, or sends out of Trinidad and To­ba­go, that crim­i­nal prop­er­ty; or

(c) con­verts, trans­fers or re­moves from Trinidad and To­ba­go that crim­i­nal prop­er­ty, com­mits an of­fence of mon­ey laun­der­ing.

(2) For the pur­pos­es of sub­sec­tion (1), a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion or list­ed busi­ness knows or has grounds to sus­pect that the prop­er­ty is crim­i­nal prop­er­ty, if it or he fails to take rea­son­able steps to im­ple­ment or ap­ply pro­ce­dures to con­trol or com­bat mon­ey laun­der­ing in ac­cor­dance with the Reg­u­la­tions made pur­suant to sec­tion 56.

(3) Where a per­son is charged with an of­fence un­der this sec­tion and the Court is sat­is­fied that the prop­er­ty in his pos­ses­sion or un­der his con­trol was not ac­quired from in­come de­rived from a le­git­i­mate source, it shall be pre­sumed, un­less the con­trary is proven, that the prop­er­ty is crim­i­nal prop­er­ty.

(4) For the pur­pos­es of sub­sec­tion (3), the stan­dard of proof re­quired by the per­son re­ferred to in that sub­sec­tion, shall be that ap­plic­a­ble in civ­il pro­ceed­ings.

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