Trinidad and Tobago
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Opposition senator: Epic failure by AG’s office on missing file in $20m case


UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial – File photo/Angelo Marcelle

UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial has described news of the State having to pay over $20 million in damages for malicious prosecution of nine men acquitted of the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman as an “epic and disastrous failure.”

She is calling on Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, to provide a list of other matters in which the State acted similarly.

On Monday, High Court Master Martha Alexander awarded a total of $19,168,917.56 for malicious prosecution and exemplary damages, along with $200,917.56 in legal fees and $68,000 for an expert witness.

She also ordered that interest be added to the damages for each man, at a rate of 2.5 per cent, from May 29, 2020 – when the claim was filed – to January 30.

Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped from the driveway of her residence in Lange Park, Chaguanas, on December 19, 2006. Her body was never found.

The nine men, who went on trial for the crime and were freed, were represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Ganesh Saroop and Natasha Bisram in their civil claim against the state.

The State failed to put up a defence against the claim, triggering an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General. Attorney General Reginald Armour said on Wednesday that a file disappeared from the state’s possession the one day after it had been filed.

At a press conference in Port of Spain on Wednesday, Lutchmedial said the government is unable to prevent and detect crime, as well as convict people when they are charged as well as defend the State against allegations of malicious prosecution.

She said she has never seen such incompetence under any previous government led by any political party.

She said the investigation must include government minister Faris Al-Rawi, who was AG, when the lawsuit had been filed and served in June2020.

She said her “heart goes out” to Naipaul-Coolman’s family, adding that they are left wondering if the “real perpetrators are still out there roaming free.

“How many more of our citizens must die because our agencies are under resourced? How many people who are guilty must walk free?”

“Somebody dropped a massive ball in the Ministry (sic) (Office) of the Attorney General.

“Who is going to take responsibility?”

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She said the $20 million could have been used to fix several issues across the country.

“Why do we have to foot the bill for their incompetence?”

She said Armour must make public how many matters involving malicious prosecution have been brought against the State and damages awarded because no defence has been put forward.

If not, she said, the answer to the question will be sought through questions in Parliament, freedom of information requests or court.

“Can any person whose family, whose children, whose parents are a victim of crime in this country feel they will ever get justice when they read about these things in the newspaper?

“Quite frankly, I think not.”

Opposition MP Rodney Charles agreed with Lutchmedial, saying either Al-Rawi or Armour should be fired.