Former AG Chambers paid $99.6M in legal fees in 2019
Despite having a Solicitor General, one Deputy Solicitor General, two Assistant Solicitors General and six State Counsels in its employ, the Ministry of Legal Affairs paid a $99.650M in legal fees last year.
This would account for the period after the No – Confidence Motion was passed in December 2018 and the Coalition government mounted several legal challenges to take off calling general elections.
The revelation of the high cost for outside legal help was made in the 2019 Auditor General Report.
The report said the $99.6M was paid as legal fees and/or retainer agreements to three law firms and seven external Attorneys-at-Law.
The report did not name the forms of the attorneys but said a special investigation was being conducted on legal fees expended.
When the government changed in August 2020, the new People’s Progressive Party government said it discovered irregular practices in the retention of legal services during the APNU+AFC’s stint in office.
Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall had said that each of the political cases initiated by the then Government “were without merit,” but they were still being filed at the expense of taxpayers.
In one case, more than $12M was paid to two lawyers by the State for legal advice, while the same lawyers were representing a private citizen in the same matter.
Private citizen Compton Reid had moved to the High Court in 2019 attempting to challenge what would turn out to be the successful passage of a No-Confidence motion that defeated the APNU+AFC in the legislature, even though it held a Parliamentary majority.
Reid, a New Amsterdam, Berbice farmer, had retained a battery of high-profile lawyers which included Rex McKay and Neil Boston.
However, Nandlall, who replaced former AG and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, discovered that both McKay and Boston were paid $12M by the then Government for “legal advice” rendered to the AG Chambers, while they were representing Reid in the same matter.
Additionally, Queens Counsel (QC) Dr Francis Alexis, a former AG of Grenada, was also hired by the APNU+AFC government for more than $5M to argue its case at the Court of Appeal in the same no-confidence motion matter.
Attorney Mayo Robertson was also paid $1.9M in the same No-Confidence case, in which he appeared for the AG.
Reid, Williams, and the then government all lost when the matter reached the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which reaffirmed that the motion was successfully passed and that the Government had been defeated in the legislature and was therefore required to call elections.
In another case, APNU+AFC prospective Member of Parliament (MP) Roysdale Forde was paid more than $1.7M by the Coalition government at the time to represent Winston Jordan in private charges filed by the latter against Juan Edghill, now Minister of Public Works.
Though Jordan was the sitting Minister of Finance at the time, he filed a $200M lawsuit, in his private capacity, against Edghill for malicious prosecution.
In the last few months, Forde represented a number of persons linked to the APNU+AFC, who were seeking to have an election declaration made based on fraudulent results to hand the APNU+AFC a victory.
Nandlall had also highlighted figures from a number of invoices for legal services rendered to the AG Chambers under the previous government, with those amounting to millions of dollars.
In one case, Barbadian lawyers, Queens Counsel Hal Gallop and Ralph Thorne, were paid approximately $10M for representing the State in a matter challenging the unilateral appointment of then Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (rt’d) James Patterson.
The state eventually lost that case when it reached the country’s Apex Court – the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Q.C Thorne was also retained and paid $4.2M by the AG Chambers in another matter involving then Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon and Basil Williams.
Maxwell Edwards, the Attorney who appeared for the AG in the Eslyn David election case also benefitted from $1.8M when the matter was before the Court of Appeal, and an additional $2-$3M when it reached the CCJ.
Edwards lost that case, along with Forde and Robertson who represented David.