Friday 5 June, 2020

Jamaican-born QC fined TT $2.25 million on corruption charges

Jamaican-born Queen's Counsel, Vincent Nelson, was on Monday fined TT $2.25 million for his role in a high-profile corruption case allegedly involving a former attorney general and an Opposition legislator in Trinidad and Tobago.

Nelson pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to commit money laundering, misbehaviour in public office and conspiracy to commit an act of corruption during a plea bargain hearing on June 6 last year.

However, the charge of misbehaviour in public office was discontinued by the prosecution in keeping with the plea agreement between Nelson and the state.

As part of the plea deal, Nelson agreed to turn a state witness and testify against former attorney general, Anand Ramlogan, and Opposition senator, Gerald Ramdeen, according to media reports from Trinidad. That matter is to be heard on April 28, but could be heard earlier than was initially scheduled.

On Monday, following the completion of in-chamber discussions between Nelson's attorneys and the DPP's office, High Court judge, Malcolm Holdip, accepted the recommendation for a non-custodial sentence to be imposed on the Jamaican-born attorney.

The judge subsequently fined Nelson TT$$250,000 for conspiring to breach Section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which criminalises corruption through bribery.

Additionally, the Queen's Counsel was ordered to pay TT$2 million for conspiring to breach Section 45 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which criminalises the concealment of the proceeds of crime. The maximum penalty for the offence, according to media reports from the twin-island republic, is 25 years in prison, or a fine of TT$25 million.

It was further reported that if the convicted man failed to pay the fine within two months, starting from the end of April, he will face three years in prison at hard labour.

Nelson was also granted permission to clear the larger fine in 10 monthly instalments. Failure to do so will result in him spending five years in prison.

Holdip also placed Nelson on a TT$250,000 bond to keep the peace for three years.

The Jamaican has been allowed to return to the United Kingdom while he is in the process of making arrangements to pay the fines.

Meanwhile, the judge warned potential fraudsters to not use the case to feel emboldened to commit fraud and quickly pay restitution.

The offences for which Nelson was charged and subsequently convicted, are alleged to have occurred between October 1, 2010 and September 9, 2015. They involved a series of financial transactions and alleged rewards involving legal fees paid to him for representation in state briefs that were reportedly obtained while Ramlogan was attorney general.

The case against Nelson has been held in-camera due to an order granted last June which gave the judge the discretion to hold what would normally be an open-court hearing, in private.

Additionally, the records of the case are to be sealed and not revealed to the public.

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