DPP Roger Gaspard, SC. FILE PHOTO –
DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, says he is concerned and worried that it appears in TT, there are “deep problems” in bringing people accused of white-collar crimes to justice.
His comment on Wednesday, came after public criciticms over his decision on Monday to end corruption charges against former prime minister Basdeo Panday, his wife Oma, former UNC government minister Carlos John and one-time party financier Ishwar Galbaransingh.
Gaspard made his feelings known in a radio interview with hosts Dale Enoch and Tony Lee on their Morning Show on i95.5fm.
Gaspard admitted that in several white-collar crime investigations, and prosecutions, “several high-profile complex fraud cases have fallen away.”
He refused to apportion blame to anyone, instead suggesting that “maybe everyone – all interested stakeholders – would have contributed in some way to the eventual outcome.”
On Monday, Gaspard made the bombshell announcement that he was discontinuing the prosecution against Panday et al in the Piarco 3 matter. In this case, the four were slapped with corruption charges.
He said stopping the case did not mean the criminal justice system had failed.
“It could also mean the system works,” he said, while acknowledging that his office was not “primarily concerned with convicting people.”
He said in looking at whether to continue the matter, he had to consider if there was a fair prospect of conviction, along with the availability of witnesses.
He explained there was a two-stage “litmus test,” not peculiar to TT, that he had to consider in arriving at a decision. The first, he said, would be a reasonable prospect of conviction and the other would be the public- interest aspect of continuing or stopping a prosecution.
Gaspard said the first hurdle had to be crossed before attempting the second.
Gaspard also addressed public concerns that the collapse of cases involving people in high office had tarnished the image of the Judiciary and even his own office, which left the impression that justice had gone bad.
Instead, he asked, “Should we continue with a matter where there are not strong grounds (to continue)?”
Gaspard referred to the slew of gang-related charges arising from the limited state of emergency in 2011, which he discontinued when the cases reached the courts.
Under section 90(3)(c) of the Constitution, the DPP has the power to institute or discontinue any charges.
He said while public concern Is legitimate, he views it in this way: “The DPP’s office isn’t primarily concerned with convicting people.
“It is concerned with bringing prosecutions where there is sufficient and compelling evidence. It is not ‘win at all costs.’ Sometimes when you discontinue a matter, if it is premised on strong and sensible grounds, the DPP’s office would have done the right thing.”
He said in the Piarco cases, with charges dating back to 1999, to proceed now in 2023, “I would have to say, that does not speak to an efficiently-working system.”
Last year, Gaspard also made the shocking decision to discontinue the case against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen, which largely depended on the testimony of convicted King’s Counsel Vincent Nelson.
The latter “categorically” said he was not willing to give evidence until the conclusion of his $96-million civil claim against the Attorney General.
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, is yet to comment on the collapse of the Piarco 3 prosecution.
Last year, Armour and the US law firm Sequor Law were disqualified from the multi-million-dollar civil-asset forfeiture case linked to the same airport project.
This was because of Armour’s previous work as an attorney for one of the accused, former minister Brian Kuei Tung. A US appeal court upheld the disqualification of Sequor Law in early February and the trial began on Monday.