Sunday, February 25, 2018

DPP’s office seeks warrant for e-mail info

Richardson wrote Google in June 2013, say sources

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Central Authority Unit in the Office of the Attorney General are moving to secure a warrant to demand US-based Internet provider Google hand over information relating to emailgate. 

Sources close to the investigations confirmed to the Express yesterday that former lead investigator into the emailgate probe, retired  deputy commissioner of police Mer­vyn Richardson, did in fact write to US Internet provider Goo­gle, pertaining to the Section 34 e-mails of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and three Cabinet ministers.

The letter was written in June 2013. 

Richardson refused to comment on the matter yesterday while his successor, ACP Glenn Hackett, would only state, “We have officially engaged Google.”

The Express has learned the letter to Google requested that Google “pre­serve” the e-mails for the period under scrutiny—September 1 to September 30, 2012—for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Mooni­lal.

“Google is not going to readily hand over any information to us with­out a warrant. But I can assure you that we have engaged Google via correspondence to preserve the information for the specified pe­ri­od under probe,” a well-placed source revealed. 

The source added when all legal issues are examined, the Central Authority, through the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT), will make a request to the Department of Justice in the US to secure a warrant from a High Court judge, on behalf of the Central Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. 

The source added at the end of the process, the police may or may not get the information from the Goo­gle database but it would have exhausted all possible avenues.

The Express was able to confirm Richardson wrote Google in his capacity as lead investigator, shortly after he was appointed to lead the probe by Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, at the behest of the prime minister.

This confirmation is contrary to a front-page report in the Guardian newspaper yesterday, claiming local cops never approached Google for assistance in verifying the e-mails under probe, pertaining to Persad-Bissessar and three other senior Cabinet ministers. 

The Guardian based its article on a recently published Google Transparency Report, which identifies countries and law-enforcement agencies’ requests for information on its users’ accounts for the period January to June 2012.

Trinidad and Tobago was not specifically listed in the report.

The allegations against the People’s Partnership leader and key ministers surfaced during a motion of no-confidence in the Government, on May 20, 2013, by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who revealed a thread of e-mails, linking the top Government officials to an alleged plot to conspire to pervert the course of justice.

The Google Transparency Report did not make any reference to a que­ry by one of the minister’s involved, Suruj Rambachan, who is on record as stating he wrote to Google on June 11, 2013, telling them, “A claim was made in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago that I was a conspirator to commit a crime. This was suppor­ted by an e-mail from to me at e-mail address,

“My enquiry is whether any such e-mail was sent to me by between September 1st and September 30th, 2012. Further whether existed during this period.”

He received a response from Goo­gle on June 12, which stated, “After a diligent search and reasonable inquiry, we have found no subscriber information or IP log information for any e-mail account by a user with the e-mail address”

Rambachan’s query was also not listed on the Google report. 

Criminal attorney Israel Khan SC, who is representing both Persad-Bissessar and Moonilal, Leader of Government Business in the House, told the Express yesterday that any move by the DPP and the Central Authority to approach the US State Department for a warrant “does not make sense”.

He said the DPP’s office can only make a move if they have established there are reasonable grounds that a criminal offence has been committed.

“Google will not give any information unless the subscribers say so. Also, if they want information, you must go to a judge in the US and establish reasonable grounds that a criminal offence has been committed through the use of the provider’s services. 

“As far as I know, there is no evidence from Dr Keith Rowley or the police to show that the prime minister and Dr Moonilal have committed any offences or are suspected to have committed any offences,” Khan added.

He said the same applies to the investigation by the Integrity Commission (IC), which has written his clients, asking them to waive their secrecy rights so the commission could solicit information from the Internet provider. 

“What the commission is saying to my clients is that you are presumed to be guilty and should supply information to clear yourselves.

“That is an insult to us and I have advised my clients accordingly. Why don’t they (IC) focus on Dr Rowley and find out where did he get the e-mails from. 

“I maintain that Google cannot give up the information. They have to get a warrant from the US and they have to show reasonable and probable grounds before they can get such,” Khan added.       • See Page 23