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War of words over Duprey

War of words over Duprey Lawrence Duprey failed to testify before the Commission of Enquiry examining the collapse of CLICO. (FP)

Sat, May 04, 2013 - 1:18 PM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 4, CMC – Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says he is standing by the words “wanted man” used to describe Lawrence Duprey, the former chairman of the collapsed Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO), despite criticism from Duprey’s lawyer and a former High Court judge.

Duprey failed to testify before the Commission of Enquiry examining the collapse of CLICO and Ramlogan, speaking to reporters afterwards said also that the police would have questions to answer if it is proven that Duprey, who now lives in the United States, had been allowed to return to the country without being served a subpoena to appear before the one-man Commission.

But in a letter to Ramlogan and made available to the media, Duprey’s attorney Lionel Luckhoo termed “illogical and inexplicable,” Ramlogan’s use of the words “wanted man” to describe his client.

 “You are to be reminded, Attorney General, that you are a leader in the legal profession and should be setting examples of integrity and rectitude. Your interference is contrary to those tenets of your role,” he said , adding “ the use by you of the pejorative phrase ‘wanted man’ is frankly both illogical and inexplicable. The phrase has of course been seized by many newspaper reports.”

Luckhoo noted that no criminal proceedings had been instituted against Duprey, adding “there is at this stage an enquiry which should continue without any political interference and without seeking to pre-judge its results or compromise the constitutional fair-trial rights that are possessed by all in this country”.

Luckhoo also accused the Attorney General of breaking the promise he made to the country when he took office, and of usurping the role of the commissioner of the enquiry.

 “You have arrogated unto yourself the role of the commissioner, who, it is hoped, would consider all the evidence and the submissions that he has yet to receive before making any public pronouncements, which is further hoped and indeed expected to be within his terms of office.” 

Luckhoo reminded Ramlogan that Duprey “has been ordinarily resident out of the jurisdiction for a number of years and has not been to Trinidad since the middle of 2009. 

“It would not then have been possible therefore to serve him with legal process within the jurisdiction and service abroad of a witness summons would never be an acceptable process for a commission of enquiry, as you will know!”

Former High Court judge Herbert Volney said he too was “impelled” to come to Duprey’s defence, adding “it scares me to hear this reckless and dangerous statement coming from the State’s chief legal adviser and someone so entrenched in the political boudoir of the Prime Minister”.

Volney, who was fired as justice minister in the coalition People’s Partnership government that includes Ramlogan, said the statement “speaks volumes of the mindset of the Attorney General for it must now only be taken to be seen as the ominous signs of a creeping dictatorship in which no citizen can feel protected by the right to a fair trial in accordance with fundamental justice, the protection of the law and the right against self-incrimination declared in the Constitution”.

“This unfortunate misstatement is not in accordance with the criminal law where it is enshrined that there is a presumption of innocence even in the face of pregnant silence,” he told the Trinidad Express newspaper, adding that Ramlogan’s statement “has been aggravated ten times over” because it has “attracted neither condemnation nor derision” from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie or Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard.

But Ramlogan’s attorney, Donna Prowell, whose response to Luckhoo was also released to the media, said that while her client “did in fact state” had Duprey been served with the subpoena to give evidence before the Commission “and failed to show, he would have been liable to the criminal process.

“ In such circumstances, your client risked prosecution for a criminal offence in accordance with the Commissions of Enquiry Act, Chapter 19:01, Section 12 and would have most certainly been a wanted man.”

The attorney said that it is common knowledge that Duprey was “a material witness” required to attend the enquiry and was wanted by the Commission for this purpose.

“That you would take objection to the description of your client as the ‘central protagonist’ who was a wanted man in this regard is strange and illogical,” she wrote adding “our client rejects the assertion that his description of Mr Duprey as the ‘central protagonist’ amounts to an unlawful arrogation or usurpation of the role of the Commissioner.

“Mr Duprey was in fact the head of the CLICO empire. He was the executive Chairman of CL Financial and Chairman of CLICO. This description is therefore justified and fairly obvious to the average man-in-the-street. 

“Our client is well aware of the fact that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)  is constitutionally responsible for criminal prosecutions but wishes to draw your attention to the fact that the DPP has indicated that the Commission of Enquiry has the status of a court of law and hence possesses the power to initiate criminal prosecution for non-attendance under section 12.

“With respect to your query about what Mr Ramlogan’s response would have been had he been Mr Duprey’s lawyer, we are instructed that he would have advised his client to return home to the country where he amassed his billion-dollar fortune and accept service of the Witness Summons.”

She said ramlogan would have advised him to “appear and give evidence” before the Commission “and allow himself to be cross-examined where appropriate.

“He would have also advised him that to do otherwise, would have created the impression that he was being evasive and un-cooperative and led ordinary people to wonder if he had something to hide. In short, he would have advised to face the music and clear his good name. “

 

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