Judge to rule on energy firms vs DPP in July

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Nadia Kangaloo. –

A HIGH Court judge will on July 14, give a decision in the legal challenge of energy giant Methanol Holdings Trinidad Ltd (MTHL), two other energy companies and several of their principals, against the use of a local accounting firm in investigations arising out of the decade-old collapse of Clico.

In September 2020, Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled that the application of MTHL, Process Energy, Consolidated Energy (Trinidad) Ltd, and their principals, against a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and police, to use accounting firm Deloitte in investigations, was an exceptional case.

The local energy firms and their principals are represented by Lord David Pannick, QC, and Lee Merry.

Last week, the judge heard oral submissions from Pannick; the DPP’s attorney Ian Benjamin, SC, and attorneys for the Commissioner of Police.

She has set July 14, for her decision.

The parties are seeking several declarations that the decision of the DPP and police the commissioner to continue to engage Deloitte for criminal investigation was unreasonable and a breach of natural justice, among other things.

They also want a declaration that the conduct of the DPP trespassed on the police’s function and compromised essential elements of the judicial process.

Initially the parties sought an injunction to restrain the DPP and the top cop from continuing to use the accounting firm, but dropped it after they were assured that investigators would not interview witnesses with Deloitte’s participation.

From May 2-July 12, 2019, police searched the MHTL offices at Atlantic Avenue, Point Lisas. In all, 82 boxes of documents were taken over the two-month period and an additional 78 boxes were taken from an off-site storage unit.

The parties’ complaint is grounded in their contention that it was recently disclosed that the DPP chose, at the start of the investigation, to seek expert opinion from a senior partner at Deloitte.

However, the energy firms’ claim that the senior partner has appeared in arbitral and civil proceedings and given evidence against them on the same issue before the DPP for his consideration and, as a result, the accounting firm is conflicted.

They also complain that the DPP has employed consultants who do not have the relevant criminal investigation experience and are largely IT experts and forensic accountants, rather than criminal investigators.

Noting that the investigation has been running for ten years, the parties say the use of external consultants may, in large part, explain why the investigation has taken so long.

In September 2010, the reports and files on the investigation into the collapse of Clico were passed to the DPP and in November 2010, a commission of enquiry was established to look into what led to the collapse.

During the enquiry, the DPP wrote to Sir Anthony Colman, the lone commissioner, notifying him that a criminal investigation had been launched into the conduct of individuals and companies involved in the collapse. In 2016, the Colman commission report was also sent to the DPP.