AG remains silent amidst criticism over Piarco airport corruption case

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour. –

ATTORNEY GENERAL Reginald Armour, SC, has said he will remain silent in the face of the Opposition’s position that he acted inappropriately and should be fired or resign.

Armour issued a media release on Wednesday in connection with an appeal case in the US from which a law firm representing the country was removed. He added that he addressed all concerns in a media release issued on Monday and had nothing further to add.

At the UNC’s Virtual Report on Monday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar accused Armour of lying under oath to a Miami court about his role in representing former clients Brian Kuei Tung and his girlfriend Renee Pierre, who were both charged with corruption in the construction of the Piarco airport.

The State began litigation in 2004 in the US to recoup millions of dollars from those accused of corruption. Then attorney general John Jeremie, SC, sued Birk Hillman Consultants, Steve Ferguson, Raul J Gutierrez Jr and Kuei Tung for hundreds of millions.

In his statement on Monday, Armour said he recused himself of any involvement in the Miami-Dade County, Florida case involving Kuei Tung and Pierre who he represented before his March 16 appointment as AG.

The Opposition Leader claimed Armour’s recusing himself and appointing former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi to represent the country was unconstitutional in accordance with Section 76(2) of the Constitution. The section says the AG, subject to section 79, has all legal responsibilities for TT.

She also called on the Law Association to investigate Armour for breaches of the Legal Profession Act and code of ethics.

Law Association president Sophia Chote said as far as she was aware no formal letter had been sent to the association in relation to claims. She said she too was conflicted in the matter, as she represents accused in the Piarco inquiry locally. If the matter goes before the association’s council, she said, she will recuse herself.

Senior counsel Martin Daly, in a WhatsApp response to questions from Newsday, said the AG can re-assign cases, but mishandled the situation.

“Section 76(2) of the Constitution is expressly subject to section 79. This would permit the AG to have the particular matter re-assigned provided there was compliance and the terms of section 79.”

“But, if the newspaper reports are accurate, the matter seems to have been badly handled by Armour having even a preliminary conference with the attorneys in the US, by the ‘note taker’ assertion and the potential exposure arising out of statements on oath in an affidavit in the US proceedings.

“Another trust and confidence issue has arisen with respect to the office of the AG. If the newspaper reports are accurate, serious and embarrassing mistakes have been made and these mistakes may complicate the validity of the re-assignment of the matter.”

Section 79 of the Constitution states “The President, acting in accordance with the advice of the prime minister, may, by directions in writing, assign to the prime minister or any other minister responsibility for any business of the government of TT, including the administration of any department of government. (2) Where a minister is incapable of performing his functions by reason of his absence from Trinidad and Tobago or by reason of illness the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the prime minister, may appoint a member of the House of Representatives or a senator to act in the office of such minister during such absence or illness.