Vincent Nelson’s $96m civil trial remains in-camera

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Jamaican-born attorney Vincent Nelson. FILE PHOTO – FILE PHOTO

TWO government ministers and a UK expert on professional conduct and disciplinary matters involving attorneys are expected to testify for the State in the civil claim brought by convicted King’s Counsel Vincent Nelson for $96 million in compensation for an alleged breach of an indemnity agreement to protect him from prosecution.

The trial of Nelson’s civil claim got underway at the Waterfront Judicial Centre, Port of Spain, on January 25. Presiding over the claim is Justice Jacqueline Wilson. The two-day trial will be held in hybrid form, meaning both virtually and in person and will remain in-camera.

Newsday sought permission from the judge to cover the two-day trial. However, permission was refused.

An e-mail from the judge’s judicial support officer to Newsday’s request reminded, “Please be advised that Her Ladyship has directed that in February 2022, the claimant sought and obtained an order that “all proceedings in this matter be conducted in-camera and that public access to same be restricted.”

“As that order has not been varied or discharged, public access to the proceedings is restricted at this time.”

On February 9, 2022, Wilson ordered the sealing of the case from public access. It was also not to be made a matter of public record. All documents filed were also ordered sealed.

The judge’s order came after Nelson’s then attorney Keisha Kydd-Hannibal made an application to have the matter sealed.

On October 11, 2022, a day after Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, discontinued the criminal case against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen, Nelson’s new attorneys sought to have the file unsealed.

However, the State strenuously resisted the application.

Attorneys for the State cited “extensive and sustained public debate” on the matter and the DPP’s position that his office had the option to reinstate charges.

The reason for the discontinuance was Nelson’s unwillingness to testify against Ramlogan and Ramdeen, until his civil case had ended.

In response to Nelson’s claim, the Attorney General also filed a counter-claim seeking to have every cent paid to him returned to the State. A civil claim against Ramlogan and Ramdeen also seeks the same repayment.

Nelson filed his claim alleging breach of an indemnity agreement with the Government to protect him from criminal prosecution and possible proceedings outside Trinidad and Tobago in exchange for a statement alleging a legal-fees kickback scheme with Ramlogan and Ramdeen.

Ramlogan was accused of receiving payment from Nelson after the AG’s Office awarded him a number of state briefs, while Ramdeen was alleged to have facilitated the payments from Nelson to Ramlogan.

Nelson was convicted in 2019 and sentenced in March 2020 on charges of conspiracy to commit an act of corruption and money laundering.

For the conspiracy to commit an act of corruption, Nelson was fined $250,000 and was given two months, starting at the end of April 2020, in which to pay or serve three years of hard labour. On the money-laundering charge, he was fined $2 million, which was to be paid in ten instalments, or will serve five years’ hard labour. He was also put on a $250,000 bond for three years, as the judge who sentenced him, Justice Malcolm Holdip, agreed to no jail time for him.

He has yet to pay any of the fines and has asked that the State indemnify him.

Nelson is represented by King’s Counsel Romie Tager and Shankar Bidaisee while the State is represented by a team of attorneys led by Kennedy Talbot, KC.

Nelson was expected to testify virtually on Thursday. Also expected to testify are former attorney general,now Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi, who entered the purported indemnity agreement with Nelson for the State, and former national security minister, now Energy Minister Stuart Young.

The State has on its list of witnesses a UK expert in disciplinary and professional conduct matters.

Nelson has also appealed his conviction and the fines imposed on him. That matter was expected to be heard earlier in January but has since been adjourned to March.