AG admits: My role in Kuei Tung case more than I recalled

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. –

ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour, SC, says he was never given an opportunity to correct the record in the Miami courts, when he realised the extent of his involvement in the defence of his former client Brian Kuei Tung in the local courts.

In a press advertisement, Armour gave a more detailed explanation of what went awry, which ultimately led to him being disqualified as this country’s representative in the multi-million-dollar civil asset forfeiture case in a Miami court last month.

He insisted he never tried to mislead the Miami court in any way when he spoke of his role in Kuei Tung’s defence over a decade ago.

In an affidavit, in response to a motion by Kuei Tung to strike out the US lawsuit, Armour claimed he played a minimal role as the defendants’ lawyer in TT, which was limited to “legal research and taking notes.”

The judge’s disqualification ruling is currently being appealed.

Armour first issued a statement on the matter on June 4 but remained silent afterwards..He said that was because of ongoing proceedings in Miami.

Since then, he said, he has seen concerns raised by his colleagues in the legislature and the legal profession and considered these concerns legitimate enough for him to respond in greater detail, although still constrained by the ongoing appeal.

He also said he could not speak out on the matter because he had been “called away on urgent, unrelated government business,” for two days last week.

‘MY ROLE WAS MORE THAN I RECALLED’

In an affidavit in response to a motion to strike out the US lawsuit, the AG claimed he played a minimal role as the defendant’s lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago, which was limited to “legal research and taking notes.”

He said when he gave the affidavit, there was nothing to be gained by downplaying his involvement in Kuei Tung’s defence, since he had recused himself as TT’s representative in the Miami case, and delegated that role to former AG, Faris Al-Rawi.

Armour, 65, was appointed AG on March 16 by the Prime Minister, replacing Al-Rawi ,who got the Local Government ministerial portfolio.

He said during his absence from TT, while on vacation with his family in Europe, he was asked to sign the affidavit for the US matter and, “given the urgency with which I was asked to sign,” and without access to a notary public, he was only able to sign and e-mail the affidavit to Al-Rawi (who at the time was acting as AG) on April 24 for transmission to the US lawyers, Sequor Law.

Armour insisted he accurately represented what he remembered of his involvement in Kuei Tung’s case in the affidavit. But, he said, he later realised his involvement was “more than I had recalled.”

Armour said when he realised this, he contacted acting AG Al-Rawi so he could file another affidavit to correct the record.

“I was confident that I would be given an opportunity to lodge a clarifying affidavit.” He also said Al-Rawi told him to make himself available on the day of the hearing of the motion and he did so, suspending his holiday for the day and remaining in his hotel room with his phone.

‘I NEVER GOT A CHANCE’

“The opportunity to file an affidavit correcting the record was never afforded to me. I was surprised to learn that the judge had made the order disqualifying me and the Republic’s US lawyers on April 27, 2022, which meant there was no opportunity for me to put my clarifying evidence on the record.”

Armour said the US judge made the ruling to disqualify on the basis of a rule which required automatic disqualification” irrespective of the level of my involvement in Mr Kuei Tung’s defence.

“The end result is that I signed an affidavit based entirely upon my best recollection, but I was attempting to recall events occurring some 14 years before.

Former government minister Brian Kuei Tung. FILE PHOTO –

“I did not get the opportunity to correct my affidavit because the judge made the order before I had a chance to do so.”

There has been a chorus of calls for Armour’s immediate resignation or for the Prime Minister to fire him after news broke on June 5, detailing the US court’s ruling disqualifying him from the US case instituted by the State because of his previous representation of Kuei Tung in the criminal proceedings in TT.

In his first statement on the issue, Armour said he was “walled off” from the case by the US law firm after he disclosed his potential conflict of interest “other than case management issues,” which included signing off on a settlement from a co-operating witness who agreed to pay US$4 million in compensation to TT, testify in the local matters against his co-accused, and settle outstanding invoices to the firm.

The judge also disqualified Sequor Law.

In his detailed explanation on Monday, Armour said when he gave his affidavit, he had already recused himself from acting on TT’s behalf and it was his view that his “prior involvement in Mr Kuei Tung’s defence was, therefore, immaterial.

“As I stated before, I was holidaying with my family and I did not have any papers relating to Mr Kuei Tung’s defence with me or even in Trinidad since I had disposed of those papers a long time ago. I, therefore, had to rely entirely on memory.”

He said he was asked to sign the affidavit, which he did, and represented what he recalled.

“To be best of my recollection at the time, I had acted as junior counsel to Mr Allan Alexander, SC, and had primarily done research and taken notes in Mr Kuei Tung’s defence and that is what I said.”

GOT NO ADVICE FROM US ATTORNEYS

He said he had not received any advice from the US lawyers that the lesser the degree of his involvement in Kuei Tung’s defence, the better.

Armour said it was only after affidavits were submitted in response on April 26, two days after he signed and e-mailed his to Al-Rawi, and the night before the motion to disqualify him and Sequor Law was expected to be heard, that he recalled his true involvement in Kuei Tung’s defence.

He said it was “more extensive” than he first remembered. He also said he realised he needed to correct his affidavit urgently and contacted Al-Rawi so he could file a correcting affidavit, but was never given an opportunity to do so, since the judge gave his ruling on the same day.

Armour’s more detailed explanation comes one day after Senior Counsel Martin Daly again said the AG could not properly remain silent in response to the public’s concerns.

“In my view, silence is not an option when a Cabinet member’s acts or omissions in the discharge of his public functions are ones which require accountability to the public.

“Political accountability and institutional trust in the office of AG and the Government as a whole is at risk and cannot be subordinated to the AGs choice of silence. That is gravely detrimental to the public interest,” Daly insisted.

Armour also faces two possible motions of censure from the Opposition, filed in the Parliament, and a group of attorneys who have petitioned the Law Association to call a special general meeting to investigate allegations of a possible breach of the code of ethics of the Legal Profession Act as a consequence of the May 2 ruling in the US court. The council of the Law Association has also initiated an investigation into possible breaches of the code of ethics governing lawyers.