TRINIDAD – Thousands for Anand
Jack Warner ordered to pay former AG $900,000
PORT OF SPAIN –– In what could be one of the largest awards in a defamation case, Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner has been ordered to pay close to $900,000 in damages and costs to former attorney general Anand Ramlogan.
An additional order of prescribed costs is likely to push the figure into the million-dollar figure, and Ramlogan said he would be asking that the former FIFA vice-president be made to pay the money to the court if Warner goes ahead with an appeal of Justice Robin Mohammed’s judgment which was delivered in the Port of Spain High Court yesterday.
Speaking after the judge ruled that the allegations made by Warner at a political meeting on October 19, 2013, were defamatory, Ramlogan said of his former cabinet colleague: “Mr Warner has made it his trademark in politics to make malicious and scandalous accusations without a shred of evidence and when called on to provide it cries wolf and runs away.”
Ramlogan also accused Warner of engaging in gutter politics.
“When a court of law rejects your evidence and says you cannot be believed, what does it leave for the man on the street?”
Ramlogan maintained that the ILP leader could not be believed.
“Mr Warner is not a man of truth or credibility and is not to be believed,” the former attorney general said.
Warner, who is facing extradition to the United States where he has been indicted for multiple counts of fraud, racketeering, money laundering and corruption, was ordered to pay $600,000 in general and aggravated damages and $200,000 in exemplary damages. Costs of the defamation claim was quantified in the sum of $94,000 and costs in Warner’s application to change his defence statement at the trial is to be assessed. The ILP leader was not in court yesterday for the ruling.
Warner, earlier this month, complied with a similar order of the court to pay $200,000 to Chaguanas councillor Faaiq Mohammed for an attack on his character by the former government minister.
Ramlogan’s defamation claim was filed after statements Warner made on the hustings during the ILP’s local government election campaign. At the meeting held on October 19, 2013, Warner alleged that the then attorney general was the owner of over 51 properties, “some of them in his brother’s name”.
Warner also claimed Ramlogan gave permission to British solicitor Ackbar Ali to take care of his business.
The ILP leader admitted he made the statements, and said it was told to him by Ramlogan at a meeting of state boards at the Diplomatic Centre, chaired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, one year earlier.
Warner used the principles of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege to defend the statements he made in the hustings. All four defences were rejected by Justice Mohammed.
Mohammed, in his 58-page judgment yesterday, said it was “certain that the benefit” of Warner’s allegations “uttered at the public political meeting in the midst of the Local Government elections was indeed to gain a political advantage” for himself and his political party at the polls.
“The allegation in this case was one of extreme seriousness as it concerned corruption of a public official holding high political office,” Mohammed said.
According to the judge, Ramlogan at the time the allegations were made was the holder of the second highest position in the cabinet and the executive arm of the state.
“Such allegation then is not one that can be abated easily by the mere passage of time even in instances where the allegation was found to be baseless.”
Mohammed said the objective of political gain “ought not to have been pursued at the cost of lowering the claimant’s reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public, discrediting the claimant in his Office as Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago and exposing the claimant and his family to ridicule and contempt, particularly
in circumstances where the defendant showed no evidence or belief in the truth of the defamatory statements”.
The judge further pointed out that Ramlogan was not only attorney general at the time, he was also a senior member of the inner bar and had been awarded the Express Newspaper Individual Of The Year Award in 2004. He said the defamatory words of Warner, which cast aspersions of corruption and improper conduct on Ramlogan, were worsened by the fact that Warner was a former FIFA vice president who attracted much media attention, as he gave reasons for awarding aggravated and exemplary damages.
At the trial in May, Ramlogan denied ever speaking with Warner about his personal life and of his ownership of real estate or of his relationship with Ali.
He said while the two were former cabinet colleagues, he did not trust Warner to divulge such information to him. Ramlogan contends the statements were distorted and entirely false and were said to enhance his political image and that of his party.
Ramlogan was represented by Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan, Kelvin Ramkissoon, Gerald Ramdeen and Varun Debideen while Keith Scotland, Asha Watkins-Montserrin and Jacqueline Chang also appear for Warner.