JAMAICA-born British Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson has benefitted from a deferral of the payment of the fines imposed on him as restitution for his role in the alleged legal briefs kick-back conspiracy involving former attorney general Anand Ramlogan and former UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen.
Covid19 restrictions curtailed some of the operations of the court and emergency practice directions issued by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, in an effort to ensure the safety of court staff and the public also led to an extension for the payment of fines.
This meant those ordered to pay fines during the covid19 national shutdown had their due dates extended, initially by one month which increased to three months as Public Health Ordinances were revised.
Nelson was sentenced in March by Justice Malcolm Holdip and ordered to pay a total of $2.25 million in fines, nine months after he pleaded guilty to his role in the allged conspiracy which involved a series of financial transactions and alleged rewards involving legal fees paid to him for representation in State briefs.
In May 2019, Nelson, 62, a tax attorney, who lives in the UK, was indicted on three charges of conspiring to commit money laundering, misbehaviour in public office and conspiracy to commit an act of corruption. The misbehaviour charge was discontinued in accordance with the plea deal he struck with the State in May, last year.
For the conspiracy to commit an act of corruption he was fined TT$250,000 and was given two months, starting at the end of April, in which to pay or serve three years’ hard labour. For the money laundering charge, he was fined TT$2 million, which is to be paid in ten instalments, or serve five years’ hard labour. He was also put on a TT$250,000 bond for three years as Holdip agreed to no jail time for him.
In response to questions on Nelson’s payment of any portion of his fines which were due at the end of April and May, the Judiciary referred Newsday to the emergency practice directions issued by the Chief Justice. Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, also confirmed that that would be the position in relation to the payment of the fines.
According to the schedule in the covid19 emergency practice directions, Nelson’s first two payments are now due at the end of July and August.
In the latest directions, which came into effect on June 15, the payment of all fines was extended by another month, except those that had already been deferred to dates after July 7.
So those who had fines to pay in March, had their payments deferred June and will now become due in July. The same goes for payments originally due in April- these were deferred to May, then July and will now become due in August. Those payments deferred to dates after July 7 will remain due on those dates.
The payment of traffic tickets also attracted a 50 per cent discount if paid in full by the new dates.
At his sentencing hearing, Nelson’s attorney, Tim Allen, SC, said Nelson had an outstanding practice as a tax attorney in the UK and was cut off from any semblance of a professional future as he can no longer practice law. Allen said in addition to being in remission for cancer, Nelson also suffered depression and anxiety for the months he waited for sentencing. He also had little liquid assets but “will have to find a way to pay.”
Since his first appearance in the TT courts last year, Nelson had been put on bail and given permission to leave the country, returning for the hearing of his case after he expressed fears for his safety and because of his health condition. This was part of the plea agreement.
Now that he has been sentenced, the bond replaces the bail but he must still return to TT to testify or he will be jailed for two years which is the default punishment if he fails to adhere to the conditions of the bond.Ramlogan and Ramdeen were also expected to return to court on April 28, however they have received new adjourned dates as magisterial cases were also pushed back because of the covid19 restrictions.