Trinidad: Ja­maican-born British Queen’s Coun­sel Vin­cent Nel­son takes deal in legal fee kickback case

Trinidad: Ja­maican-born British Queen’s Coun­sel Vin­cent Nel­son takes deal in legal fee kickback case
Vincent Nelson
Vincent Nelson

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — The State’s co-op­er­at­ing wit­ness in the on­go­ing cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to for­mer at­tor­ney gen­er­al Anand Ram­lo­gan, SC, and Op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tor Ger­ald Ramdeen has struck a deal over his role in the le­gal fees kick­back scam.

The plea bar­gain agree­ment for Ja­maican-born British Queen’s Coun­sel Vin­cent Nel­son was re­vealed by Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) Roger Gas­pard, SC, when he made a rare court ap­pear­ance in the Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trates’ Court as Nel­son was hit with three con­spir­a­cy charges yes­ter­day.

Gas­pard ex­plained that the 61-year-old had struck a deal un­der the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure (Plea Dis­cus­sion and Plea Agree­ment) Act 2017, which was pro­claimed on Jan­u­ary 2. He re­vealed that un­der the agree­ment, Nel­son agreed to plead guilty to the charges and tes­ti­fy against his co-ac­cused, who are yet to be charged. Gas­pard did not re­veal any fur­ther terms of the agree­ment, in­clud­ing the pro­posed sen­tence Nel­son would face.

Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, af­ter an agree­ment is struck a pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry in­to the charges is by­passed and the case is trans­ferred to the High Court for a plea hear­ing as­sess­ment be­fore a judge. The trans­fer must oc­cur with­in 14 days and when it does, a date for the as­sess­ment will be set with­in an­oth­er 14-day pe­ri­od.

Mag­is­trate Maria Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle agreed to ex­pe­dite the process by en­deav­our­ing to per­form the trans­fer be­fore the end of the week.

Nel­son ar­rived at the cour­t­house short­ly af­ter 11 am and was tak­en in­side by of­fi­cers of the An­ti-Cor­rup­tion In­ves­ti­ga­tion Bu­reau (ACIB) through a base­ment en­trance re­served for mag­is­trates and se­nior court staff.

Dressed in a grey suit with­out a tie, Nel­son stood silent­ly in the pris­on­er en­clo­sure of the court with his hands clasped be­hind his back for most of the hear­ing and on­ly spoke to con­firm his name.

Nel­son was ac­cused of con­spir­ing with Ram­lo­gan and Ramdeen to re­ceive, con­ceal and trans­fer crim­i­nal prop­er­ty, name­ly the re­wards giv­en to Ram­lo­gan by Nel­son for be­ing ap­point­ed to rep­re­sent the State in sev­er­al cas­es; of con­spir­ing with them to cor­rupt­ly give Ram­lo­gan some of the funds and of con­spir­ing with them to make Ram­lo­gan mis­be­have in pub­lic of­fice by re­ceiv­ing some of the funds.

The of­fences are al­leged to have oc­curred on di­verse dates be­tween Oc­to­ber 1, 2010 and Sep­tem­ber 9, 2015, al­though Ram­lo­gan’s term was be­tween May 2010 and Feb­ru­ary 2015.

The charges that were read in court by Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle did not re­veal the per­cent­age of the le­gal fees he re­ceived from the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al that was al­leged­ly sub­se­quent­ly trans­ferred to Ram­lo­gan.

In ap­ply­ing for bail for Nel­son, his lawyer Tom Allen, QC, stat­ed that bail with­out a sure­ty (not us­ing the deed of a prop­er­ty as se­cu­ri­ty) was an ex­pressed pro­vi­sion of the deal. “He came on his own vo­li­tion and he would come again on his own vo­li­tion,” Allen said.

Allen al­so re­peat­ed­ly said Nel­son had to be al­lowed to leave the coun­try as he had con­sid­er­able con­cerns over his safe­ty.

“He would be safe abroad and there is a se­ri­ous risk if he re­mains in this ju­ris­dic­tion. The risk is more re­al if he is re­mand­ed in­to cus­tody,” Allen said.

Allen al­so claimed his client was not at risk of ab­scond­ing from the case, as he had re­peat­ed­ly re­turned to T&T to hold dis­cus­sions with State pros­e­cu­tors since he first gave a state­ment to po­lice in June 2017.

“He has en­gaged in what can be de­scribed as an un­prece­dent­ed act of co-op­er­a­tion with the pros­e­cu­tion,” Allen said.

He al­so men­tioned that his client is re­quired to con­sult with his doc­tors reg­u­lar­ly since he was di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer.

“The can­cer is in re­mis­sion but he still has to see his doc­tors,” he said.

Gas­pard had no ob­jec­tion to bail for Nel­son, ex­cept that he be re­quired to pay a $100,000 cash bond. How­ev­er, af­ter Gas­pard ad­mit­ted that he did not in­ves­ti­gate the source of Nel­son’s funds, which he in­tend­ed to use as se­cu­ri­ty, Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle agreed to grant him his own bail.

Nel­son is al­so be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Kei­th Scot­land.

About Vin­cent Nel­son, QC

Born in Ja­maica, Nel­son was called to the bar in the Unit­ed King­dom in 1980 and took silk in 2001.

In Au­gust 2010, Nel­son was ap­point­ed to a five-mem­ber team se­lect­ed by for­mer at­tor­ney gen­er­al Anand Ram­lo­gan to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged im­pro­pri­ety on State boards dur­ing the Patrick Man­ning ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The agen­cies that were in­ves­ti­gat­ed in­clud­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of T&T (UTT), Petrotrin, the Sport Com­pa­ny of T&T (SporTT) and the Evolv­ing Tech­nolo­gies and En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny Ltd (eTeck). He al­so rep­re­sent­ed the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (HDC) at the Com­mis­sion of En­quiry in­to the Las Al­turas hous­ing de­vel­op­ment and the Min­istry of Fi­nance dur­ing the Com­mis­sion of En­quiry in­to CL Fi­nan­cial.

The in­ves­tiga­tive team was ini­tial­ly tout­ed as hav­ing as its man­date the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing but their work even­tu­al­ly led to civ­il pro­ceed­ings be­ing filed against for­mer board mem­bers.

Nel­son, 61, al­so worked in a $2 bil­lion law­suit against for­mer Petrotrin ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent Mal­colm Jones and oth­er board mem­bers over a failed Gas-to-Liq­uids plant at the now-de­funct com­pa­ny’s re­fin­ery op­er­a­tion in Pointe-a-Pierre.

The com­pa­ny claimed the board mem­bers had breached their fidu­cia­ry du­ty in the $2.7 bil­lion deal for the plant, which was sup­posed to con­vert nat­ur­al gas in­to a more ozone-friend­ly liqui­fied form of diesel. Al­though it was even­tu­al­ly com­plet­ed, it re­mained non-func­tion­al due to lack of ap­pro­pri­ate tech­nol­o­gy and was deemed scrap iron. Petrotrin ini­ti­at­ed ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ings against the plant’s for­mer own­er, which it even­tu­al­ly won.

In ear­ly 2016, Nel­son ad­vised the then board that the case had to be with­drawn as doc­u­ments from the ar­bi­tra­tion, which Jones’ le­gal team sought, showed that the deal was a bad busi­ness de­ci­sion and not neg­li­gence.

Nel­son’s writ­ten ad­vice to the board was re­leased by At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi amid al­le­ga­tions that it was po­lit­i­cal­ly mo­ti­vat­ed. Al-Rawi al­so told Par­lia­ment in 2016 that Nel­son had sub­mit­ted bills to the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al worth more than $55 mil­lion.


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