APNU/AFC-hired special prosecutor wants payment from PPP Govt
One of the attorneys-at-law who was hired by the APNU/AFC regime as a Special Prosecutor has filed a lawsuit against the PPP/C Government, seeking payments for services he provided under the previous Administration.
Back in 2017, the coalition Cabinet had approved the appointment of six Attorneys: Michael Somersall, Hewely Griffith, Lawrence Harris, Patrice Henry, Compton Richardson, and Trenton Lake as Special Prosecutors on several cases derived from various forensic audits conducted into the Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme land acquisition among other probes. These charges stemmed from investigations conducted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) – a branch under the Guyana Police Force that was established for probing financial offences, including Anti-Money Laundering (AML) offences.
However, under the coalition regime, the Unit mostly went after many of the then former PPP/C Government officials based on a series of forensic audits that were conducted by the coalition.
In the suit filed since February 2020 against the Attorney General Chambers, which was headed by APNU/AFC’s Basil Williams at the time, Attorney Henry is seeking orders from the court to grant him compensation to the tune of some $6.5 million for loss and damages he suffered following the breach of oral and written agreements he had with Williams.
According to the court document seen by Guyana Times, Henry said he entered into the agreement with Williams on June 21, 2017, and was paid an initial retainer fee of $2 million upon that signing. One of the terms of the agreement, however, was that the lawyer would be paid an hourly fee of $20,000 for legal services in prosecuting those matters.
Henry said following the signing, he commenced working on the case involving officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
The lawyer said he was further tasked with three sets of matters, that is, the case against the GRDB officials who were charged with fraudulent appropriation of property; the case against former Permanent Secretary of the Office of the President, Omar Shariff, who was charged along with another for failure to comply with a production order under the Anti-Money Laundering Act; and another case against two persons for exporting gold without a licence.
Henry, according to the court document, also worked on several other cases.
However, he noted that while he received payments for his services rendered, it wasn’t until August 2019 under the then caretaker APNU/AFC when the AG Chamber “refused, neglected and/or failed” to make any further payments although he was still working as contracted.
The lawyer claimed that had written several letters demanding outstanding payments for his legal services since August 2019 but still had not been paid. He noted that in October 2019, then AG Williams changed the payment agreement into categories of Forensic Audit matters and Non-Forensic Audit matters. The lawyer said he was asked to submit a draft contract along with retainer payments for two non-forensic SOCU matters at $1.5 million each and despite doing so, he was not paid even after repeated and consistent demands.
He then wrote the AG Chambers on February 6, 2020, indicating that legal action would be instituted if the payments were not made by February 11. Henry said that these matters, for which he was hired as a prosecutor on behalf of the State, “created a financial burden” on his small practice.
As such, Henry is claiming special damages to the tune of $6.4 million as a result of the AG Chamber’s unilateral breach of contract; and general damages in excess of $100,000 for consequential losses he suffered.
He also wants an order from the court permitting him to complete the remaining four matters that he is currently prosecuting with full payments including outstanding fees, in order to mitigate his losses.
Henry is also seeking an order for him to be paid at the hourly rate of $20,000 pursuant to previously written and oral agreements for the remaining matters until completion along with retainer fees. He further asked for a 6 per cent interest per annum from the time of filing until judgement.
According to current Attorney General Anil Nandlall, “there is no greater evidence of political interference in the criminal justice system than what is expressed in the attached legal proceedings.”
Nandlall pointed out that during the APNU/AFC Administration, these politically-directed charges filed against PPP leaders for which Special Prosecutors were, specifically, retained and directed by then Attorney General Basil Williams, constitutes a violation of Article 187 of the Constitution, as well as an abrogation of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers.
“Under Article 187 of the Constitution, it is the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) that is vested with the exclusive authority to institute or advise the institution of or prosecute or advise the prosecution of criminal charges. The Executive, more specifically, the Attorney General, has no such power or authority,” Nandlall contended.
Only in August, it was disclosed that over $68 million were spent by the APNU/AFC coalition to retain private lawyers for legal advice and several legal proceedings including the series of litigations regarding the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) as well as the electoral proceedings following the March 2, 2020 elections.