6 former APNU/AFC Govt Ministers facing multimillion-dollar lawsuits

Former Ministers Basil Williams, Jaipaul Sharma, Khemraj Ramjattan, Annette Ferguson, Winston Jordan, and David Patterson.

Six former APNU/AFC Government Ministers are facing lawsuits before the Demerara High Court. Ranging from claims for defamation and malfeasance in public office, the former Ministers are being sued for tens of millions of dollars by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, who has also filed proceedings against them on behalf of the State, as well as in his personal capacity.

They are former Ministers Basil Williams, Jaipaul Sharma, Khemraj Ramjattan, Annette Ferguson, Winston Jordan, and David Patterson.

Former Finance Minister Winston Jordan is being sued by the State for more than $300 million over the sale of lands located at Water or Mudlots 1 and 2; Lot F of Mudlot 3 and Lots A, B and D, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, to BK Marine. Nandlall contended that the sale of the lands is illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy as they were sold at a price below the market value.

“The property was sold at a gross undervalue and way below market value in relation to comparable and competitive facilities of a similar nature, form, and usage which was sold consistent with the market value,” he contended. According to the Attorney General, the management of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) “…acted recklessly and without obtaining a Certificate of Value for the property in order to ascertain the current market value.”

As such, the Attorney General is seeking to repossess the lands.

In a Statement of Claim filed on April 4, 2017, Nandlall is seeking over $25 million in damages for slanderous statements made by his predecessor Basil Williams, SC, in which he said that he would be charged criminally for law books unaccounted for during his previous tenure as Attorney General between 2011 and 2015. Nandlall was subsequently charged in 2017 with the offence of larceny by bailee.

The charge, which was withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in October 2020, had alleged that between May 18 and May 29, 2015, while being a bailee in his capacity as Attorney General, Nandlall fraudulently converted 14 Commonwealth Law Reports valued at $2.3 million, property of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, to his own use and benefit.

Nandlall had always denied the allegation, stating that the charge was politically motivated and as a result of him constantly criticising Williams’s performance as Attorney General. Williams, on the other hand, had always denied the libel action, and in his defence, contended that at the time of the making of the statements, he was speaking in his capacity as Attorney General, the custodian of State assets, and had a duty to give transparent answers.

Former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, a Jamaican company Nevpro Realisation Limited, and two former officials of the said Ministry are being sued by the State over three weigh-in-motion scales valued at $72 million that was paid for under the APNU/AFC Government, but never delivered.

Nandlall is asking the High Court to order Nevpro Realisation Limited of Haining Road, Kingston, Jamaica, to pay $50 million for loss and damages resulting from a breach of a contract dated December 6, 2016, for the supply and delivery of three Mettler Toldeo weigh-in-motion scales. He is also asking the court to order the company to return $72,450,000 that had been paid for the items as well as liquidated damages of $7,245,000.

Further, Patterson, former Permanent Secretary at the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, Balraj Balram and then Engineer/Manager of the Special Projects Units Lawrence Mentis are being sued for $50 million for loss and damage due to negligence, malfeasance in public office, misuse, misapplication, and improper disposal of monies in violation of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

Moreover, the Attorney General is also suing former APNU/AFC Minister Jaipaul Sharma for libel and is seeking more than $25 million in damages over posts made about him via Facebook. Court documents state that on November 17, 2020, Sharma, a former junior Minister of Public Infrastructure, referred to the PPP/C Government as “hypocritical” for going after coalition officials and others for questionable land deals using the office of the Attorney General.

In the Facebook post, Sharma claimed that Mohabir Nandlall & Associates, a law firm for which Nandlall was the senior and managing partner, was involved in some of these land transactions in which a large plot of land was transferred a few days after David Granger was sworn in as President in 2015.

Nandlall’s lawyers had written to Sharma, informing him that the post was not only libellous, but malicious and completely false, and is causing damage to the standing, integrity, and reputation of the law firm and Nandlall’s reputation. The Attorney General’s counsel had also demanded that Sharma retract the offensive publication and issue an apology immediately to their client and the law firm.

Sharma, however, did not even bother to issue the apology. Instead, Nandlall said, Sharma aggravated the libel by publishing another post reciting a conversation he had with him about the source of the information contained in his statement about the land transfer.

Nandlall submitted that the ordinary meaning of the publications gives the impression that he is dishonest, unprofessional, engaged in corrupt land deals and criminal activity, that the law firm engages in dishonourable and unlawful activities, and that he has taken steps to intimidate and threaten Sharma.

As a result of the publications, Nandlall deposed that he has suffered public humiliation, ridicule, odium, and anguish. In relation to the law firm, he added that it has suffered irreparable financial loss and damage resulting from the damage to his and its reputation.

Former Junior Housing and Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson is being sued for $20 million by the Attorney General, who claims that she defamed his character in statements she made about him on March 22, 2020, in the presence of electoral observers, members of the diplomatic corps, and the media.

According to Nandlall, in the statements, Ferguson accused him of distributing identification cards on election day last year. In its natural and ordinary meaning, Nandlall said the words uttered by Ferguson mean that he has committed electoral fraud – a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.

Moreover, the Senior Counsel argued that her statements infer that he was actively aiding and abetting persons to commit electoral fraud, that he perverted the electoral process, and is unfit to hold public office.

Former Government parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud has sued former Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan for in excess of $30 million over alleged libellous statements he made about him after he voted in favour of the December 2018 No-Confidence Motion brought against the coalition Government.

Persaud, through his lawyer, contended that the statements complained of meant and were understood to mean that he was a traitor, dishonest, and had accepted monetary or other inducements or benefits for his vote on a PPP-sponsored motion of no-confidence against the then Government to which Ramjattan was allied.

In addition to these six, former Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence is among several persons before to courts on electoral fraud charges pertaining to the 2020 General and Regional Elections.