‘Nobody can get kick back’- AG on court settlements
Attorney General Basil Williams has denied claims that Government is getting a “kick back” from millions of dollars paid to businesses in out of court settlements or lost court cases.
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo last week questioned whether the State is deliberately losing millions of dollars in matters before the court to financially benefit its associates.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Williams argued that while matters are dealt with by the subject Minister under whose purview the issue falls, it has to be taken to Cabinet before any settlement is approved.
“How is it a kick back? To who? To all the members from the Minister of Communities and his team, the Attorney General Chambers and his team, the whole Cabinet?” the AG questioned.
The Government was recently ordered to pay $7.2B to Rudisa Beverages, $187M to Toolsie Persaud Limited, $446M to Dipcon Engineering by the courts and also offered US$5.7M to BK International and $3.8B to DDL in out of court settlements.
Additionally, it approached the National Assembly recently for approval of $226M to pay Guytrac in another out of court settlement.
Asked why the administration opted to settle as opposed to fighting the cases to the end, the Attorney General said the cases were “incurable.”
He said the cases were not argued at the lower level courts, it could not be raised at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) or the Court of Appeal.
The Attorney General has in the past denied having knowledge of many cases which he inherited from the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration. Recently, the Ministry of Legal Affairs placed a notice in the papers calling for persons who are representing the State in court cases to make contact with the Attorney General.
The AG said he made moves to become au fait with the cases under his Ministry, noting that letters were sent to the court to provide a list of the ongoing cases which included those that were outsourced. Letters were also sent to nine lawyers to state whether they were retained by the AG Chambers for any matters and provide copies of those files.
Williams said the Ministry of Legal Affairs is also implementing an e-register which will compile all ongoing cases by Ministry.