Sep 21, 2020 News
A Special Audit is currently being undertaken by the Auditor General’s Office into the millions of taxpayer dollars expended by the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition administration to procure the services of private lawyers for elections-related litigations and other personal matters.
Revealing this was Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall.
According to Nandlall, the last regime paid the staggering sum of $146,099,180 GYD from 2017 to 2020, to private lawyers. That figure however, only relates to the invoices discovered at the Attorney General’s Chambers.
He was quick to point out that “dozens of other invoices” cannot be found for the attorneys retained by the APNU+AFC during the “melee of madness”, the five months from March to August 2020.
It was during that period, he added, “a series of disgraceful and useless cases were filed, in an effort to get the Judiciary to conspire with the rigging cabal at Congress Place, to pervert democracy.”
With the litany of court battles regarding the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, suspicions arose that the previous administration took money from the National Treasury to foot their expensive legal bills, when they should have been paying for the cost out of party coffers.
While the Auditor General is expected to provide a clearer picture as to the extent of the spending, Nandlall, from the invoices he discovered, provided some insight into how much APNU+AFC paid taxpayer dollars to private attorneys.
For the case against the Coalition’s unilateral appointment of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair, James Patterson, then Attorney General Basil Williams reportedly retained two Barbadian Queens Counsels, Hal Gollop and Ralph Thorne. Together the two lawyers were paid approximately $10 million for their services. According to Nandlall, that cost did not include hotel and accommodation listed in the retainer contract. Moreover, Nandlall revealed Thorne was also paid an additional $4.2 million in state funds to represent then AG Basil Williams in his private capacity in a case where was sued by the former Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon.
With regards to the No-Confidence Motion cases, Nandlall highlighted that a battery of lawyers earned “big bucks”. Among them was Attorney-at-Law Maxwell Edwards who was paid $4 million for his participation in the No-Confidence case and Senior Counsels, Rex McKay and Neil Boston who were the legal counsels for Compton Reid, a farmer from New Amsterdam who had challenged the No-Confidence Motion in his private capacity. According to Nandlall, they were all paid $12 million by the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, Dr. Francis Alexis, Q.C from Barbados was paid $5 million in the same case.
Delving further, the AG pointed to a case where Attorney-at-Law, Roysdale Forde, SC, appeared on behalf of the then Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan in a private case. Jordan had sued now Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill in his private capacity but used over $1.7 million from the state’s purse to foot the bill. Forde is currently an APNU+AFC parliamentarian.
Other invoices, Nandlall explained related to the payments for Attorney-at-Law, Mayo Robertson, who also represented the Coalition’s interest in a number of recent elections’ cases. He said that Roberston was paid $1.9 million for the No-Confidence Motion case with an additional $1 million in another case involving the then AG Basil Williams and another $600,000 for a private matter.
As it regards the Eslyn David case, where that private citizen also challenged the results of the elections using the recount figures, Nandlall disclosed that the coalition through the Attorney General’s Chambers paid Maxwell Edwards again roughly $4M for legal services.
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