AG steps aside in Piarco corruption case – Conflict of interest over ex-clients Kuei Tung, Renee Pierre

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour on his way to Parliament in March. – JEFF K MAYERS

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Reginald Armour says he has recused himself of any involvement in the Miami-Dade County, Florida case involving former government minister Brian Kuei Tung and his girlfriend, Rene Pierre, both of whom are facing corruption charges arising out of the Piarco International Airport expansion project.

Armour, who was sworn in as Attorney General on May 16, after a Cabinet reshuffle, had previously represented Kuei Tung and Pierre.

In a statement on Saturday from the Office of the Attorney General, Armour gave a chronology of events that led to his decision.

He said at the date of his appointment, the case involving the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ROTT) versus Bill Hillman Consultants, Inc, Steve Ferguson, Raul J Gutierrez Jr and Brian Kuei Tung (Miami case) was pending in the Miami Dade County Court 11th Judicial Circuit Court, Florida.

Armour said the Miami case began in 2004 by attorneys Sequor Law on the instructions of then attorney general, John Jeremie, SC.

He said named representatives from TT, which is the plaintiff in the Miami case and whose names have appeared on the record from inception were Jeremie, Bridgid Annisette-George (now Speaker of the House of Representatives); Glenda Morean, SC, John Jeremie, SC; Anand Ramlogan, SC; Garvin Nicholas; Faris Al-Rawi (his predecessor and lastly, himself.

Brian Kuei Tung –

Armour said on March 30, he attended his first introductory virtual meeting by teleconference with Sequor Law in reference to the Miami case, the purpose of which was to provide him with a brief status report on TT’s readiness for trial.

He said on that call were two representatives of Sequor Law – himself and Tenille Ramkissoon, Director of Civil Litigation, Attorney General’s Secretariat at the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs.

“At the very beginning of that virtual teleconference, I immediately advised everyone present that I had previously represented the defendant Brian Kuei Tung and his girlfriend Ms Rene Pierre in matters involving charges brought against them by the police involving the construction of the then new Piarco Airport and that I wished the advice of Sequor Law in respect of any conflict of interest in my participation in the Miami case,” Armour said.

He added, “From that moment I was walled off by Messrs Sequor Law from any aspect of the case other than case management issues, that is to say, logistics for trial, naming a person to attend mediation and to attend the trial and payment of invoices as well as with regard to the Birk settlement in respect of which I had signed a settlement document prepared by others, in my capacity as chief legal officer of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Armour said as a consequence of his disclosure, “I did not participate in any trial related issues of any kind and delegated the continued case preparation to former Attorney General, Honourable Mr Faris Al-Rawi and Ms Ramkissoon.”

He said he left TT on April 12, 2022, on a pre-arranged family vacation in Europe, which had been pre-booked before his appointment as AG. Armour said he returned on May 1, 2022.

He said Al Rawi was appointed to act as attorney general in his absence.

Whilst abroad on vacation, Armour said, he received a phone call from attorneys of Sequor Law, who informed him that Steve Ferguson and Kuei Tung had filed motions to strike out the Miami case as well as to disqualify Sequor Law from representing TT, “By reason of an alleged conflict which existed because of my appointment as Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said he was informed that the hearing of that disqualification motion was scheduled to take place in Miami.

“I was asked to sign an affidavit in opposition which I did on the 24th of April 2022 in my hotel in Ireland.

Steve Ferguson –

“I emailed that affidavit to Mr Al-Rawi for transmission to Sequor Law. In that affidavit I gave my best recollection, stating the fact that I did not recollect any details of my former representation of Mr Kuei Tung or Ms Pierre nor was I in possession of any files related to that former representation.”

Armour said he also gave his best recollection of his disclosure of conflict of interest declared to Sequor Law on March 30.

But while still in Europe, Armour said he received a phone call from acting AG Al-Rawi, who told him that the sitting judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit had made an order on the motion for disqualification.

The judge, he said, had ordered that Sequor Law be disqualified from continuing as attorneys for TT in the Miami case, “By reason of their contact with me as Attorney General.”

Armour said, “Consistent with my prior decision to recuse myself from any involvement in the Miami case, I left all discussion and decision making following on this information of the judge’s order to the acting Attorney General to determine how best to deal with an order which I considered patently wrong given the fact that as Attorney General I was named in the Miami case as a nominal plaintiff only and having recused myself from the outset from any involvement in the Miami case, there could be no question of my limited contact, as disclosed with Sequor Law, being a basis for their disqualification to act as attorneys for the ROTT.”

Armour said since his return to TT on May 1, and his re-assumption of substantive responsibilities, he has been advised by Al-Rawi that the ROTT has appealed the decision of the judge as being erroneous in law and that notwithstanding that appeal and in the interest of not providing any cause for unwarranted allegations affecting the capacity of attorneys to continue with the prosecution of the Miami case, the ROTT has retained new attorneys to replace the firm of Sequor Law.

The law firm of White & Case LLP, Southeast Financial Center, 200 South Biscayne Blvd, Suite 4900, Miami FL 33131–2352, will now prosecute the Miami case.

Armour said, “For the reason that the Miami case is an ongoing jury trial involving a claim by the ROTT to recover millions of United Sates dollars for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and notwithstanding the fact of my considering the decision of the judge to be patently wrong, I have until now exercised the discretion to say nothing about the facts (now articulated in this statement) so as to avoid any possibility of any defendants in the Miami case purporting to rely on anything said by me to claim putative prejudice and or other purported prejudice which could be used strategically to continue to delay this long outstanding trial being determined on the merits of issues involving fraud.

Armour said he released the statement after receiving a query from a media house on Saturday about the Miami case.

The matter relates to charges filed in 2004 and 2005 for alleged corruption and bid-rigging arising out of the Piarco Airport Development Project between 1995 and 2001.

The matter relates to charges filed in 2004 and 2005 for alleged corruption and bid-rigging arising out of the Piarco Airport Development Project between 1995 and 2001.