Vincent Nelson’s $96m breach of indemnity claim to be heard on Tuesday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Jacqueline Wilson

KING’S Counsel Vincent Nelson’s civil claim against the Attorney General for an alleged breach of an indemnity agreement with the Government comes up for hearing on Tuesday.

The matter is listed on the Judiciary’s website to begin at 8.30 am before Justice Jacqueline Wilson, who has previously ordered the proceedings to be sealed, based on an application by Nelson’s former attorneys.

Nelson, 64, is suing the State for over $96 million for loss of earnings (after being expelled from the prestigious UK firm 39 Essex Street Chambers); loss of insurance benefits; the $2.5 million fine he was ordered to pay when he pleaded guilty; and additional sums if the UK’s National Criminal Agency and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Service make demands of him, for alleged unpaid taxes.

In October, Nelson’s new lawyer Shankar Bidaisee signalled his client’s intention to apply for an order to have the judge unseal the claim so its contents can be made public.

The letter Bidaisee sent to the State set out claims that Nelson was assured of a presidential pardon for his conviction if he testified against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen.

On October 10, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, announced the State was dropping the charges against Ramlogan and Ramdeen because Nelson was not willing to give evidence until his claim for breach of the alleged indemnity agreement came to an end.

In response to the letter asking for the unsealing of the claim, the State has said it will resist any such attempt in the interest of justice, since there was a significant overlap between the criminal proceedings and the civil claim. The criminal proceedings refer to the discontinued charges against Ramlogan and Ramdeen, and the State has pointed out that the DPP has expressly reserved the possibility of reinstituting the criminal charges at the end of the civil claim.

The State has already filed two defences to Nelson’s civil claim, countering that his inability to practise law was caused by his own criminal conduct. It is also seeking repayment of the money paid out to his attorneys as part of the plea deal, a re-amended defence filed in early November says.

In June 2019, Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit an act of corruption. He was put on bond for three years, and as part of the deal, agreed to testify against former UNC attorney general Anand Ramlogan and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen.

In March 2020, Nelson was spared jail time as part of a plea deal with the DPP.

Nelson has alleged misfeasance in public office and sets out what he views as these deceptions.

He maintains he was induced to give the statement against Ramlogan and Ramdeen.

He contends representations by Al-Rawi that the State would not institute criminal proceedings against him were false.

Nelson’s claim was sealed in February and it was ordered that his claim form, statement of case and all documents, including the State’s defences, should be sealed, stored from public access and not be made public record.