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“No kick-backs” from multi-million dollar out-of-court settlements

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams on Wednesday rejected accusations by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo that kick-backs appeared to be part of several multi-million dollar settlements of court cases that the coalition government inherited.

“There is nobody who could take kick-backs and all of that. Not in our government because the matter has to be dealt with by the subject minister and then it has to go to Cabinet,” Williams told a news conference.

Williams threatened to test the presidential immunity of Jagdeo, who was President from 1999 to 2011, in filing a libel action against him.

The Attorney General, who has been repeatedly accused by Nandlall-his immediate predecessor- of losing or settling a number of cases- said there was no evidence of government officials receiving kick-backs from those settlements.

Williams also defended his decision to settle a number of the cases, saying ” a lot of those cases were incurable”. He explained that in an appeal if an issue was not argued it could not be raised at the higher court- Guyana Court of Appeal or Caribbean Court of Justice. “What we found in many cases is that you would actually have the defence stated in pleading but it is not argued, not asserted  before the court and so you can’t do anything about it,” he said.

The Attorney General said that on assuming office in May 2015, the Attorney General’s Chambers had written to the Guyana Court of Appeal and the High Court  as well as several lawyers to whom cases might have been outsourced to ascertain whether there were any pending cases against the State.

Except for two lawyers- Ashton Chase and Stephen Fraser- he said no one else eventually acknowledging  representing the State. He said the Courts, however, produced a list of those cases, but at the same time the staff at the Attorney General’s Chambers was still unearthing other old cases.

He threatened to take legal action in the criminal jurisdiction of the court against several lawyers who he believed were still holding on to cases as representatives of the State.

The Attorney General said Nandlall failed to deal with conditions such a breach of contract in the case of BK International.  The other cases include Rudisia  Beverages  -V- AG – GY$7.2 billion dollars;  NH International L.T.D; Emile Elias-V- AG US$11M plus GY$403M; Toolsie Persaud Ltd-V- AG-GY$1.7 billion; Ministry of Communities—V-BK International – US$5.7 million and National Drainage and Irrigation Authority  vs- H.Sugrim – GY$$226.1.