The Integrity Commission has started a probe into emailgate, which continues to be the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
The commission’s investigation comes nine months after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley took some 31 e-mails, purported to have been exchanged between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and two senior Cabinet ministers in an alleged Section 34 conspiracy, to then President George Maxwell Richards for action.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Local Government Minister Surujrattan Rambachan and National Security adviser to the Prime Minister Gary Griffith have all been linked to the e-mails.
Failing to get any response from Richards, the Opposition Leader proceeded to disclose the contents of the purported e-mails in Parliament on May 20, during a motion of no confidence in the Government under the leadership of Persad-Bissessar.
Rowley argued that the Government had “attacked and conspired to undermine key institutions of the State”. These, he said, were the Judiciary, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Opposition and the media.
In a statement yesterday, the Integrity Commission stated that “in the exercise of its mandate under Section 33 (a) of the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA), (it) has commenced an investigation to determine the authenticity of alleged electronic mails as provided to the commission by the former president, Prof George Maxwell Richards”.
And while Mervyn Richardson, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and lead investigator of the emailgate probe, points to a stalled investigation, chiefly because of the police’s failure to get a response from electronic mail providers, Google and Microsoft, the commission said it has already made headway in this regard, as it seeks to verify the authenticity of the e-mails.
The commission said it “has had response from an international electronic mail service provider and is moving ahead with its investigation”.
It further stated that in June it had solicited legal advice on whether the commission had the authority to investigate the issue at hand. “In June, the commission advised the national community that, based on public statements and matters raised relative to copies of electronic mails forwarded for authentication to the commission’s chairman by the then president of the Republic, advice was requested from senior counsel as to whether those matters can be investigated by the commission under the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life (IPLA) Act, Chapter 22:01.
“The senior counsel advised that the commission indeed has the jurisdiction to consider and enquire matters where there have been breaches of the IPLA and where an offence has been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” the commission stated.
According to the commission, the senior counsel’s advice was concluded as follows:
“It is clear from the above provisions and in particular Section 138 (d) of the Constitution and Section 5 (e) and (f) and Section 33 (a) of the act read together with Section 24 (1) and (2), Section 27 (1) and Section 29 (1) of the act that the commission is vested with jurisdiction to investigate the matters raised in the purported e-mails to determine whether the conduct of any person who falls under the purview of the commission is dishonest, corrupt or conducive to corruption.
“The commission also has the jurisdiction to consider and enquire whether there have been breaches of the act (which would include breaches of the Code of Ethics) or whether an offence has been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Chap 11:11. Of that there can be no doubt.
“It is now public knowledge that the purported e-mails are currently the subject of a police investigation which is being monitored by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions. It is entirely a matter for the commission to determine whether, notwithstanding the police investigation, it wishes to exercise its own jurisdiction under the act to carry out its own investigations utilising its powers under the act to determine whether the purported e-mails disclose dishonest or corrupt conduct, conduct conducive to corruption or breaches of the act on the part of persons in public life or persons who fall under the purview of the commission.”
The senior counsel further advised the commission it could also report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) if it was satisfied an offence had been committed.
“It should be noted that by Section 5 (2) (b) of the act, the commission may at any time make use of the services of the police if it considers it appropriate to do so.
“It should further be noted that by Section 34 (7), if after an investigation has been conducted, the commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, it is required to make a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions who may take such action as he thinks appropriate and by Section 31(3), it shall report to the Director of Public Prosecutions any breach of the Code of Conduct by a Member of Parliament,” the senior counsel advised.
Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon will not be taking part in the investigations, the commission reiterated yesterday.
Gordon had taken the decision to recuse himself from any probe following a protest last month by the Government, which demanded his resignation from the commission following a “secret” meeting with the Opposition Leader on the e-mail matter.
The meeting had taken place at Gordon’s Glencoe home and was initiated by Rowley a few days before he made his disclosure in Parliament in May.
Both the Attorney General and the Prime Minister condemned the meeting and felt Gordon had compromised himself and would be “biased” against them in the event of an investigation.