In May, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, ordered a probe into prison litigation matters and the prospect of criminal wrongdoing.
It followed a letter sent by former solicitor general Elandor Donaldson-Honneywell to then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in August 2013. Donaldson-Honeywell flagged concerns of collusion involving attorneys in cases against the state.
She claimed there were concerns about a breach of professional ethics for indirect or direct financial gain, adding that she was concerned the attorneys were engaged in an unethical business venture. She also referred to the retaining of lawyers by the Office of the AG to defend the state in civil law claims. However, those said attorneys challenged the state in prison matters.
Then, there was another alarming discovery; prisoners’ injuries were ‘copy and paste’ in many cases and the evidence wasn’t able to substantiate such injuries. The attorneys involved were former UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen and Varun Debideen. Ironically, Ramdeen representated the state in civil matters.
The practice was first unearthed by High Court Master Patricia Sobion-Awai in an assault and battery lawsuit filed by Jamal Sambury. The ruling was referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association. This, is why the DPP ordered a probe into what he said could be a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and conspiracy to defraud the State.
The Prisongate investigation is no longer limited to just the alleged “cutting and pasting” of witness statements but has taken on a more organised crime element which has seen millions of dollars pocketed by attorneys.
The lawyers successfully won cases against the state for damages to be paid to the appellants who in many cases were less fortunate members of society. Reports say the majority had their matters heard and they won.
However, they weren’t even aware that their cases were challenged. Some of the matters where the state awarded “too little damages” were appealed without their knowledge. Witness statements and claim forms bore their names but fradulent signatures.
Author: Dareece Polo