Nelson’s ex-attorney Scotland: No comment on plea-deal affair

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

MP Keith Scotland. File photo/Jeff K Mayers

ATTORNEY Keith Scotland has declined to comment on the Vincent Nelson affair and statements made by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the UNC’s Monday night Virtual Report.

Contacted on Tuesday, Scotland, who is also the PNM MP for Port of Spain South, said he wished to decline comment at this stage.

On Monday, Persad-Bissessar revealed e-mail correspondence purportedly from Nelson terminating the retainer fee he had been paying Scotland.

Scotland was part of Nelson’s legal team at his plea-deal discussions and hearing in 2019 and 2020.

In June 2019, Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit an act of corruption.

In March 2020, he was fined $2.5 million. Those fines are yet to be paid. He has said they must be paid by the State, as they form part of the agreement to indemnify him if he provided a statement on the alleged legal-fees kickback conspiracy with former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen and two UK attorneys.

Nelson, 64, is now suing the State for over $96 million for: loss of earnings after being expelled from a prestigious UK firm; loss of insurance benefits; the $2.5 million fine he was ordered to pay when he pleaded guilty; and additional sums if the UK authorities make demands on him for alleged unpaid taxes.

He has alleged the State breached the November 2017 indemnity agreement.

His civil claim was filed in February. In May, he is alleged to have told Scotland by e-mail he had concerns about his conflict of interest in the matter.

In the purported e-mail on May 26, Nelson said his concern had grown considerably over the last few weeks and he had decided it was in his best interests and for his peace of mind to terminate Scotland’s retainer.

Scotland was asked if he was Nelson’s attorney when the civil claim was filed and whether his client had terminated his retainer. He was also asked if he knew whether Nelson gave instructions to have the claim sealed.

On October 10, DPP Roger Gaspard, SC, announced the State was dropping the charges against Ramlogan and Ramdeen.

He said Nelson was not willing to give evidence in that matter until his claim for breach of the alleged indemnity agreement came to an end.

“Suffice it to say,” he added, “this court may be well aware that one of the primary considerations the State must consider is whether or not there is a fair prospect of conviction and at this stage and having regard to the fact that those civil proceedings may raise germane issues which may attend upon the credibility and reliability of Mr Nelson, the State at this stage is saying that we are discontinuing the case against the two defendants.

“Any other option, in my respectful view, especially having regard to the time that would have elapsed and the uncertainty of outcomes in relation to that civil case would make for unfairness to these defendants, and the DPP’s office is especially careful not to do anything that would cause the DPP’s office of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to be associated with any such unfairness.”

So far, the Criminal Bar Association and the Assembly of Southern Lawyers have expressed concern over the affair. Former president of the Law Association Martin Daly condemned the purported agreement and the alleged role of former AG Al-Rawi.

Also contacted for comment, Law Association president Sophia Chote, SC, said she could not speak on the issue without the input and agreement of the association’s council.