For the second time, information conveyed to the Parliament by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has been deemed to be inaccurate by the affected parties who were granted a right of reply by the presiding officer.
Attorneys Reginald Armour SC, Elena Araujo and Ian Benjamin, in their separate replies yesterday, told the Parliament that the amounts given by Ramlogan as legal fees paid to them by the Central Bank were overstated by more than 400 per cent, 300 per cent and 184 per cent, respectively.
The Clerk of the Senate read into the records the responses of the three attorneys in which they all challenged the veracity of statements made by Ramlogan during the Budget debate on Thursday October 18, 2012.
Ramlogan had told the Senate that Armour for the period October 2007 to July 2012 was paid a "grand total" of $17.7 million from the Central Bank.
Armour however stated, "I wish to confirm that I did not work for the Central Bank prior to 2008 and did not receive legal feels in the sum of $17.7 million. The figure stated by the Attorney General is overstated by a multiple of more than four."
Ramlogan had also said Araujo of Araujo Law firm was paid $11.5 million. However in denying the accuracy of this figure, Araujo stated, "The figure stated by the Attorney General is overstated by approximately 300 per cent."
Ramlogan had said Benjamin received $9.3 million between October 2007 and July 2012. Benjamin, in his letter, said this figure was overstated by approximately 184 per cent.
All three attorneys pointed out that their fees were in line with the tariff of Legal Fees entitled "Practice Guide to the Assessment of Costs" issued by then acting chief justice Roger Hamel-Smith on December 20, 2007. They all noted further that the Central Bank was granted a discount rate.
All three attorneys also stated that their reputations were affected. "This inaccurate statement...has caused me to be held in public contempt and it also has the tendency to mislead as it suggests that I received unreasonable and excessive fees. The statements also misrepresent 30 years of a hard-earned reputation as an independent attorney, since I have received expressions of concern that my representation of clients might now be viewed as having a particular political agenda," Armour stated. Benjamin and Araujo made similar points.
Elena Araujo noted further, "The statement has placed the principal attorney and staff of the firm and their families at considerable personal risk of danger from the criminal elements of our society" by the Attorney General's inaccurate statements.
Ramlogan was not in the Senate when the statements were read. But the PNM bench desk-thumped as the Clerk finished reading each of three letters.
PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds, speaking in a private motion on governance afterwards, said three honest hard-working decent citizens had to have letters read defending their names from an attack by the Government through the mouth of the Attorney General who stood to "more applause from his colleagues" and said what has been deemed by the persons to be inaccurate.
Hinds said Ramlogan had stated previously that himself and Faris Al-Rawi had received part of $84 million in briefs from the previous Government. "And that was absolutely untrue," Hinds said. To which Al Rawi added: "Not one brief".