Attorney General Reginald Armour –
ATTORNEY GENERAL Reginald Armour, SC, flew out of Trinidad on Tuesday for an undisclosed location on unstated “official business” until Thursday, amid a flurry of questions over his participation in the Government’s US lawsuit against defendants in the Piarco Airport corruption scandal, including one he had once represented.
Energy Minister Stuart Young will act for him, on top of his normal duties.
Up to press time, Armour had not replied to Newsday’s text query as to why he had left TT. An AG’s Office statement did not say what the AG’s official business” was.
Armour’s exit came amid calls for his head by some attorneys who began a petition for the Law Association of TT (LATT) to discuss the matter.
LATT president Sophia Chote, SC, merely told Newsday the association was due to meet on Tuesday at 3 pm for its “regular monthly meeting.”
Armour’s flight came the day after an opposition walkout of the House of Representatives to protest his participation in the debate. The Opposition has since lodged a motion of no confidence motion against Armour.
As new AG, Armour should represent Trinidad and Tobago in a US civil case related to corruption in the Piarco Airport project, but two defendants, Brian Kuei Tung and Steve Ferguson,
alleged a conflict of interest, as Armour once had been one of Kuei Tung’s attorneys.
Rejecting Armour’s claim to have served only in a junior role of “note-taker,” the US court ruled him and the State’s law firm Sequor Law ineligible, with TT now expected to spend millions of dollars more in legal fees to hire new counsel.
Newsday reported on Tuesday that the attorneys’ petition stated, “The crux of the allegation is that Mr Armour has provided false and misleading evidence on oath, on behalf of the state of TT, to a court of law in the United States.
“They are demonstrably false given the affidavit evidence in the US proceedings, well known facts in the public domain, and matters reported in the media which are materially undisputed.”
Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial commented on Armour’s trip, “In light of the factual and hard-hitting revelations by the Opposition Leader (Kamla Persad-Bissessar), I think the only place he should be going is to deliver his resignation directly to the PM.”
Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein sent an opposition no-confidence motion against Armour, dated Monday, to the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The motion said the AG must uphold the TT Constitution, code of ethics of the Legal Profession Act and the rule of law, and maintain public confidence and trust in his office. Saying the AG represented TT in civil matters, the motion said a Miami court disqualified Armour owing to a conflict of interest as defendants in the case there were his former clients in the Piarco criminal proceedings in TT.
The motion said the AG’s affidavit of April 24, under the penalty of perjury in the US court, had allegedly included “several false statements and patently misrepresented facts regarding his deep involvement” in proceedings for his former clients.
“The Attorney General gave false evidence in the affidavit that at the time he was acting for his former clients in the criminal proceedings in TT he was a junior lawyer and was restricted to ‘minimal legal research and to taking notes.’
“The Attorney General’s conflict of interest, false statements made to the US Court and his conduct has embarrassed TT and brought his office into odium and disrepute. Be it resolved that this House express its loss of confidence in the Attorney General.”
Hosein on Tuesday questioned Armour’s trip in a statement headlined, Armour must not run from answering, and criticised the AG’s Office’s “scanty press release.”
“It is highly suspicious that the Attorney General suddenly departs TT for two days after mounting public pressure from the sordid Miami court imbroglio.”
Hosein said Armour has many questions hanging over his head for telling a US court he had been a junior lawyer.
The MP asked how much was paid to the new law firm, White and Case LLP, and what was the cost of the appeal of his disqualification in the matter.
“The Attorney General must end his silence in this matter. Instead of providing answers to the citizenry, he suddenly left for a trip abroad.”
He said taxpayers must be told where Armour was travelling to, what business he was doing for TT, and how much the trip would cost taxpayers.
“The Attorney General must disclose the itinerary for this official business trip.
“Many are hopeful that the Attorney General has travelled to officially inform the substantive Prime Minister, who is abroad, that he will be tendering his resignation.”
On June 4, Armour issued a statement defending himself. He said on becoming AG on March 16, the US court case was pending between the Republic of TT versus Birk Hillman, Ferguson, Kuei Tung and Raul J Gutierrez Jr, in which TT was nominally represented by the AG, now himself, after a succession of seven past AGs, ranging from John Jeremie, SC, to Faris Al-Rawi.
Armour said at his first teleconference on the case on March 30, he had immediately declared that he had represented Kuei Tung and his girlfriend Renee Pierre and that he wanted Sequor Law’s advice on any conflict on interest. He said he was “walled off” by Sequor Law to do just case-management issues, saying, “I did not participate in any trial-related issues of any kind and delegated the continued case preparation to former AG Faris Al-Rawi and Ms Ramkissoon (director of civil litigation Tenille Ramkissoon).”
Armour said he was abroad on a family vacation from April 12-May 1, during which time Al-Rawi was acting AG and had called him.
While abroad, he had learnt of two defendants’ move to strike out the US case and disqualify Sequor Law. He filed an affidavits in opposition, saying he recalled no details of representing Kuei Tung and Pierre and had not retained any files on that representation. He said he recused himself and left all decision-making to Al-Rawi, as acting AG, on handling the court’s “unfair” order.
Armour said since then Al-Rawi had appealed the court’s decision as being erroneous in law, even as the firm White and Case were hired as new attorneys.
The AG said as the case involves TT seeking to recover millions of dollars in a jury trial, despite considering the court’s decision patently wrong, he has exercised the discretion to say nothing, lest the defendants rely on that to claim putative prejudice, which could delay the trial.