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Trinidad and Tobago

Privy Council rules in UNC activist quest for information in Petrotrin/Malcolm Jones’ lawsuit

THE Privy Council this morning ruled that a UNC activist had an arguable case for accessing documents relating to the State's decision to withdraw a multi-million dollar lawsuit against former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones.

The five-member council allowed the appeal by activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj, saying based on the available evidence before them, there appeared some grounds for thinking the decision by the state to abandon the case, “may have been influenced by political factors.”

“It appears to the Board that as the available evidence stands at the moment, there are some grounds for thinking that the decision to abandon the claim against Mr Jones may have been influenced by political factors,” the decision said.

In a 25-page judgment, delivered this morning, Lords Wilson, Hodge, Kitchin, Sales and Lady Arden ruled that Maharaj’s judicial review of a decision to refuse him evidence which formed the basis for the decision to abandon the lawsuit against Jones, had a reasonable prospect of success.

Maharaj was represented by Richard Clayton, QC, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, Christopher Knight, Chelsea Stewart and Alvin Pariagsingh.

Maharaj alleged political favouritism was given to Jones who was appointed to Government’s Energy Standing Committee on October 2, 2015.

The activist said he wanted witness statements state attorney Vincent Nelson, QC, relied on to give his opinion, on October 2, 2015, that Jones had a good chance of defending the lawsuit and that “there was a reasonable likelihood that a judge will be persuaded there was a bad business decision but no negligence.” The state relied on this advice in coming to its decision to withdraw its multi-million-dollar claim against Jones.

In their judgment, delivered by Lord Sales, the Privy Council judges upheld Maharaj’s appeal on the ground that giving access to the information was justified in the public interest.

However, they made it clear that they were not expressing any final view on the merits of Maharaj’s claim for judicial review.

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