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Caribbean lawyers’ hefty fees at centre of political spat in Guyana; govt to call in Auditor General

Barbadian Attorneys Hal Gallop, Q.C. and Ralph Thorne, Q.C. on Friday after Friday’s hearing at the High Court (Samuel Maughn photos for the Guyana Chronicle)

Several Caribbean and Guyanese lawyers have had their names drawn to the centre of a brewing controversy over huge amounts paid to them from Guyana’s treasury for several political cases and a Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Working People’s Alliance (WPA) co-leader Dr. Walter Rodney.

Attorney-General Anil Nandlall on Saturday disclosed “some” of the monies that have been paid by A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)-led administration to defend the State as well as pay legal  fees to a private Guyanese law firm on behalf of a private citizen who was the applicant in a case that had challenged the legality of the no-confidence motion.

Mr. Nandlall said he would likely call in the Auditor General to examine the amounts paid and if any was done improperly steps would be taken to recover the monies. “I stress that this is sum, This is not all and I am still in the process of getting all up. I may need the professional services of the Auditor General because I don’t think what I was is the complete bill in relation to those cases,” Mr. Nandlall told a news conference.  “These things have to be the subject of a special audit to determine whether these payments were properly made…This is just a work in progress. I don’t think I have been given all the invoices that have been paid,” he added.

Sir Francis Alexis and then Attorney General Basil Williams

In a case Zulficar Mustapha vs the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Mr. Nandlall said then Attorney General Basil Williams had retained Sir Hal Gollop at a cost of US$15,566.05 and Attorney-at-Law Ralph Thorne US$30,920.97 apart from airfare, accommodation and other expenses. In a case of former Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon vs Basil Williams, Mr. Thorne was paid  GYD$4.2 million, according to Mr. Nandlall. In that case, he said Mr. Williams had been sued in his personal capacity rather than Attorney General.  Concerning the case- Attorney General vs Dr. Barton Scotland and Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo- that had challenged the constitutionality of the no-confidence motion that had been passed by the National Assembly in December 2018, Guyanese lawyer Maxwell Edwards, who appeared with the then Attorney General was paid GYD$1.8 million for the High Court and then additional GYD$2 million. In the same case, Attorneys-at-Law Rex Mc Kay and Neil Boston were paid GUD$12 million by the Attorney General’s Chambers although Compton Reid had said he was a private citizen and farmer who had been interested in democracy “though they were appearing for a private citizen.” In the no-confidence motion case at the Guyana Court of Appeal, Dr. Francis Alexis was paid US$25,000.

Mr. Nandlall said in the no-confidence motion case- AG vs Barton Scotland and Bharrat Jagdeo, Attorney-at-Law Mayo Robertson of Robertson’s Law Firm was paid GYD$1.9 million; GYD$1 million for Anil Nandlall vs the Attorney General and GYD$600,000 for Attorney General vs Christopher Ram . Guyanese lawyer Roysdale Forde was paid GYD$1,710,000 for Winston Jordan, in his private capacity, to sue Juan Anthony Edghill.

In the case Eslyn David vs the Chief Elections Officer, Attorney-at-Law Edwards was paid GYD$1.8 million for representation in the High Court and a GYD$2 million claim for representation in the Court of Appeal, Mr. Nandlall said.

But former Attorney General Basil Williams, in a Facebook post titled “just the start. PPP/C’s payment to foreign lawyers”, he released documents showing several huge sums alongside the names of lawyers and other persons for the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry. The Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham – GYD$42,332,321.79; Attorney-at-Law Jacqueline Samuels-Brown – GYD$40,700,803.68; Attorney-at-Law Seenath Jairam – GYD$39,607,177.14; Guyanese Attorneys-at-Law Glen Hanoman GYD$7 million and Latchmie Rahamat GYD$4.2 million.

Figures were also released showing that GYD$204,503.97 was spent on per diem and airport tax for Sir Richard and GYD$196,622.24 for similar provisions for Ms Samuels-Brown.