Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 13th 2015 Contents A5
Monday, April 13, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Former attorney generals
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and
John Jeremie will be calling on
the Commissioner of Police (CoP)
to initiate a forensic audit and
start an investigation into what
they are charging are unrealisti-
cally exorbitant legal fees paid by
the Attorney General s Office over
the last five years.
Minister Vasant Bharath is coun-
tering that their charges are disin-
genuous since, when the figures
are disaggregated, around the same
amount of money was spent under
Jeremie s own former administra-
Maharaj made the disclosure
yesterday in response to a question
from a CCN reporter about an
"increase" in the amount of money
spent by the AG s Office on legal
The reporter s question was
based on a release from Attorney
General Garvin Nicholas on the
issue of the legal fees.
Nicholas release came in
response to concerns from the
Government on the apparent
duplication of entries of fees paid
to state lawyers contained in a
report laid in Parliament.
According to the report, the ini-
tial total amount spent on legal
fees was some $350 million.
After Nicholas investigation of
the matter the total shot up to
Maharaj said after he saw the
increased figures, he spoke with
Jeremie and they agreed to send
to joint letter to the CoP calling
on him to investigate the matter.
"This makes the position worse,"
He said a draft letter was sent
to him while he was in London
last week which he signed but they
are going to send a redrafted let-
ter.Bharath, however, responding
to questions from the T&T
Guardian, said the legal fees were
not out of line with those spent
during the tenure of the two former
Maharaj was attorney general
under a former UNC administra-
tion and Jeremie, under the pre-
vious PNM government.
Explaining the figures released
by Nicholas, which were disag-
gregated, Bharath said it all boils
down to $160 million being paid
to state lawyers by the AG s Office
over the last five years.
"The duplication of entries in
the report was an error and did
not mean that lawyers were paid
He said the spending of $160
million in state briefs from the
AG s Office means that just over
$30 million was spent annually.
Bharath said Jeremie himself stated
this was around the figure spent
during his tenure as AG.
"$35 million is in keeping with
the amount spent by previous
Bharath said the increases in the
second report came because of the
addition of fees paid to Privy
Council representative Charles
Russell and other international
auditors like Ernst & Young who
were hired in relation to Clico
audits. These were left out of the
Russell has been this country s
representative at the Privy Council
since Independence, Bharath
Further, the AG s Office inherited
an $80 legal debt from the last
administration while $70 million
of the total was spent on lawyers
instructed by the Office of the
Director of Public Prosecutions
and not the AG s Office, Bharath
Former attorney general Ramesh
Lawrence Maharaj is considering tak-
ing criminal action against Govern-
ment and other high public officials
for possible misconduct in public
office and conspiracy to defraud Clico
Maharaj revealed this to about 250
members of the United Policy Holders
Group, which he represents, at a meet-
ing at Gaston Court, Chaguanas, yes-
His threat comes in the wake of Cen-
tral Bank s recent announcement that
Clico will pay off 85 per cent of the
total claims of regular policy holders
within three months.
The final 15 per cent will be paid
after the sale of Methanol Holdings
Maharaj s argument is that the Gov-
ernment, when it assumed office in
2010, said Clico had no money to pay
the policy holders.
The insurance giant collapsed six
years ago under the former adminis-
tration amidst claims of corruption
which included then government offi-
It received a multi-billion dollar
bailout from the Government.
Maharaj said the People s Partnership
had promised to pay off the policy
holders but reneged.
He asked how come, all of sudden,
Clico has the assets to pay policy hold-
ers, noting there was no record of an
increase in assets five years ago.
Implying it is an election gimmick,
Maharaj said the Government s inaction
in paying policy holders led to physical,
emotional and educational deaths.
He said the policy holders legal team
met in London last week and drafted
a letter to be sent to Central Bank Gov-
ernor Jwala Rambaran asking for clar-
ification in the matter.
He said the Central s Bank s response
will influence the outcome of the hear-
ing of the policy holders case at the
Privy Council in January 2016.
Maharaj advised the policy holders
to take their 85 per cent and still go
ahead with the case.
He said if they win this case, they
will have to be paid all their monies
with interest, as ordered in a High Court
judgment, and not have to wait for the
sale of Methanol Holdings for the
remaining 15 per cent.
He told the policy holders they were
not sure when they would get the
remainder of their money.
The move by primary school prin-
cipals to install air conditioning units
in schools across the country is caus-
ing the electrical systems in the said-
buildings to overload.
So said Education Minister Dr Tim
Gopeesingh in an interview with the
T&T Guardian yesterday during a tour
at primary and secondary schools in
Gopeesingh visited a total of 31
schools from Cedros to Moruga, to
assess their readiness for the start of
the new school term.
"The chief education officer recently
sent a circular to all principals as we
have principals who are trying to
upgrade their schools by installing air
conditioning units in the buildings, but
at present these buildings are not
equipped with the electrical systems
to facilitate those changes," said
Gopeesingh. "The electricity systems
in those schools are Phase 1, they need
Phase 3 systems to support that."
Gopeesingh said the upgrades would
cost the ministry hundreds of millions.
"It costs roughly $1 million to upgrade
the electrical system in one school and
we have 450 primary schools in T&T."
Questioned as to whether all schools
would be opened for the start of the
new school term today, Gopeesingh
said there were 15 problem schools
identified that might remain closed.
"There were 15 schools with sewer
and electrical problems just before the
close of the last term, but these schools
were open. We do not know if there
might have been any further problems
over the vacation period that may affect
them from re-opening."
Meanwhile, the minister said all the
necessary arrangements for the Fanny
Village Community to house the 405
students of the Fanny Village Govern-
ment Primary school have been put in
"We were able to build three annex
buildings and outfitted two containers
to accommodate students. The majority
of the students will be hosted in the
main building of the community cen-
tre," the minister said.
He also said the contractor hired to
build the new school has been replaced.
"The Education Facilities Company
Ltd (EFCL) hired a new contractor to
complete the Fanny Village School as
the work being carried out by the pre-
vious contractor was deemed unsuit-
Gopeesingh also said classes at the
Barrackpore West Secondary are
expected to resume on April 17 as reme-
dial works to Block E, which was
destroyed by fire some time ago, are
Former AGs want
forensic audit into
legal fee mix up
Govt of defrauding
Air conditioning units in
schools causing problems
RALLY AROUND THE THRONE
A photographer captures a guest as she poses on a replica of the Iron Throne during the HBO & Flow
Game of Thrones Rally the Realm Pre-Season 5 premiere at Centre of Excellence on Saturday.
PHOTO: DAVID WEARS
Links Archive April 12th 2015 April 14th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page