THE STATE has retained a leading King’s Counsel in the practice of proceeds-of-crime civil recovery and money laundering to defend the $96 million claim for an alleged breach of an indemnity agreement with the Government filed by Jamaican-born tax attorney Vincent Nelson, KC.
The matter was called on Tuesday morning before Justice Jacqueline Wilson, and Newsday understands attorneys for the State asked for an adjournment so that the British attorney Kennedy Talbot, KC, can take over control of the case. The matter was adjourned to a date to be fixed.
Newsday also understands that the two senior counsel on record for the State, Douglas Mendes, SC, and Gilbert Peterson, SC, both withdrew from the matter. They were named as the local senior counsel who advised former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi on the written indemnity agreement with Nelson. Mendes did not respond to questions sent to him on Tuesday.
Talbot's appointment was announced in Legal Notice 230, dated November 28. It said the order to have him admitted to practise law in TT was made by the Attorney General after consultation with the Chief Justice.
"Mr Kennedy Vernon Talbot, KC, is eligible to be admitted to practise law as an attorney-at-law in relation to the following cause and any matters, suits or other proceedings arising out of or in connection with the cause, namely: CV2022-00408–Vincent Nelson, KC,. v The Attorney General of TT," the legal notice said.
Talbot is a member of the UK firm 33 Chancery Lane. His biography on the firm's website says he has an extensive practice in proceeds-of-crime civil recovery, bank account forfeiture, criminal confiscation, government and police investigations and civil fraud, tracing and proprietary claims.
He is also described as the "ultimate Proceeds of Crime Act expert" who "always gets to the core of the issue no matter how complex the question."
The proceedings before Wilson were sealed in February, after an application by Nelson’s former attorneys.
Nelson, 64, is suing the State for over $96 million for loss of earnings (after being expelled from the prestigious UK firm 39 Essex Street Chambers); loss of insurance benefits; the $2.5 million fine he was ordered to pay when he pleaded guilty; and additional sums if the UK’s National Criminal Agency and His Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service make demands of him, for alleged unpaid taxes.
On October 10, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, announced the State was dropping the charges against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan,SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen because Nelson was not willing to give evidence until his claim for breach of the alleged indemnity agreement came to an end.
The State has already filed two defences to Nelson’s civil claim, countering that his inability to practise law was caused by his own criminal conduct. It is also seeking repayment of the money paid out as part of the plea deal, a re-amended defence filed in early November says.
In June 2019, Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit an act of corruption. He was put on bond for three years, and as part of the deal, agreed to testify against former UNC attorney general Anand Ramlogan and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen.
In March 2020, Nelson was spared jail time as part of a plea deal with the DPP.
Nelson has alleged misfeasance in public office and sets out what he views as these deceptions.
He maintains he was induced to give the statement against Ramlogan and Ramdeen.
He contends representations by Al-Rawi that the State would not institute criminal proceedings against him were false.
Nelson’s claim was sealed in February and it was ordered that his claim form, statement of case and all documents, including the State’s defences, should be sealed, stored from public access and not be made public record.
In October, Nelson’s new lawyer Shankar Bidaisee signalled his client’s intention to apply for an order to have the judge unseal the claim so its contents can be made public.
The letter Bidaisee sent to the State set out claims that Nelson was assured of a presidential pardon for his conviction if he testified against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and ex-UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen.
In response to the letter asking for the unsealing of the claim, the State has said it will resist any such attempt in the interest of justice since there was a significant overlap between the criminal proceedings and the civil claim. The criminal proceedings refer to the discontinued charges against Ramlogan and Ramdeen, and the State has pointed out that the DPP has expressly reserved the possibility of reinstituting the criminal charges at the end of the civil claim.