Attorney Varun Debideen's letter to AG on Malcolm Jones case leaked to media

Date: 
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - 00:00

One of the attorneys assigned to prosecute former Petrotrin chairman Malcolm Jones, has penned a letter to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, in reference to his involvement in the Malcolm Jones case.

Attorney Varun Debideen says he is not accepting that he acted unprofessionally in this matter.

The following is Debideen's letter to the Attorney General which was written before the decision by the AG to discontinue the matter. The letter was sent to the media by former Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj:

"2nd February 2016

Mr. Faris Al-Rawi,
The Honourable Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of The Attorney General,
Cabildo Chambers, 23-27 St.Vincent Street, Portof Spain.

Dear Sir,

Re: C.V2013-01917 Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited vs Malcolm Jones.

Reference is made to the matter at caption and to your letter dated 1st February 2016 which I received via e-mail on today’s date.

If you permit, without any discourtesy, I would like to address the issues raised in your letter.

Firstly, to briefly recap the history of this matter, the first communication I received regarding my letter of the 30th November 2015 from either your Ministry or your good self was when you called me from a cellular phone (683-6442) on the 4th January 2016 at around 3:41 p.m. 

Earlier that day I sought the assistance of Mr.Rajkavir Singh from your previous chambers for some assistance in contacting you in light of the lack of response.

You would recall when we spoke, that you apologized to me for taking so long to respond to me. We discussed, inter alia, the stage at which the litigation had reached and the fact that I wished to come off record in this matter. 

I also informed you of the new deadline dates for the filing of witness statements in this matter since I penned my letter to you and the difficulties in obtaining instructions in this matter for the filing of same. You would also recall that in my letter to you I requested an urgent meeting with your goodself.

At the end of our said conversation you indicated to me that by the next day or sometime soon thereafter you would send me correspondence in PDF format via email to facilitate my coming off of record in this matter and being replaced with another Attorney of your choice. 

I had also indicated to you that I was proceeding to file a Cease to Act application but would refrain from doing so until I hear from you as promised.

Having not received any correspondence from your goodself by the 8th January 2016, I sent a follow up email to your secretary Ms. Cherisse Ramharack via her two email addresses- [email protected], and [email protected]

Further to this, I attended a Pre-Trial Review in another matter on the 13th January 2016 before the Honourable Mr.Justice des Vignes where Mr.Michael Quamina also appeared. 

After the matter, I asked Mr.Quamina to do a favor for me still not having heard from you, if he can give you a reminder about our conversation and about the follow up correspondence I was expecting from you as discussed. 

I knew that he appeared with you in some matters before you came into office and I thought he may still be in contact with you. 

However, having still not receiving any correspondence from you I proceeded to file my Cease to Act application which was subsequently served on your secretary.

Additionally, I met the Honourable Mr. Stewart Young in the popular carnival fete ‘South Cancer’ on 23rd January 2016 at the San Fernando Hill and I asked him to give you a gentle reminder about your promised correspondence to me.

Even further to this, I again met Mr.Quamina on Duke Street on the 15th February 2016 and again kindly asked him to give you a reminder once more. 

It is very unfortunate that you have waited until the passing of nearly one month since our conversation and over two months since the date of my letter, and after a few reminders, to send your missive to me having regard to the urgency of action that is needed in this matter and the importance of such.

Secondly, the fact that your Ministry is unable to locate a ‘single file” regarding this matter is no fault of mine. At every stage of the litigation regarding this matter in the past, I have always dispatched copies of such documents to your Ministry.

I cannot be faulted for the actions or inactions of any personnel of The Ministry of The Attorney General. 

In any event, this claim is somewhat strange in light of the fact that I attached copies of ALL filed documents to my letter to you on the 30th November 2015 inclusive of full pleadings, interlocutory applications, lists of documents, and Statement of Unagreed Issues for your convenience. 

Inclusive in these documents I forwarded to your Ministry were preliminary positive advice on proceeding with a cause of action against the Defendant from Mr.Russell Martineau SC and Mr.Vincent Nelson QC.

Counsel in this matter has copies of all of the above, and I can endeavor to provide you with copies if necessary. Furthermore, pursuant to a Board resolution by the Claimant, the Attorney General was and is seized of care and conduct of this matter inclusive of the payment of fees in this matter. 

As a result, I was briefed by the then Attorney General and my letter of appointment contained such instructions.

With regards to the Defendant’s disclosure application I requested such instructions from the Claimant.

However, before the Claimant could have provided instructions, the HonourableTrial judge made the Order for disclosure which was complied with.

It is also untrue to state the Claimant only has no other files than copies of-

1) Statement of Case, Claim Form and Defence; and

2) Pro-action protocol letter to Garvin Chimming from Gerald Ramdeen.

3) Opinion dated 1st March 2011 from Vincent Nelson QC

More recently, via email on the 30th, October 2015 to Ms. Helen Kallicharan and Ms. Sharon Morris-Cummings, both belonging to the Claimant’s Legal Department, I sent a link to an online ‘cloud’ that contained the filed documents in this matter. 

The “cloud” also contained my letter to the Claimant of 12th October 2015 attaching the Defendant’s application for disclosure and all advice from Mr.Nelson QC (2) and Mr. Martineau SC.

The address for the link to this cloud is https://www.mediafire.com/#03nn3t9ni5pyy.

With regard to your concerns about Counsel’s invoices, please be advised that it was never part of my remit to forward Counsel’s invoices to your Ministry. 

From my knowledge, Counsel forwarded their own invoices for payment to your Ministry. I am only responsible for my own invoice which to date has never been settled despite the fact that this matter has been filed nearly three years ago. 

Disbursements have been borne from my own pocket and I have never received any monies on account on behalf of the Claimant. Diligent checks at your Ministry and at the Claimant would prove same.

Due to the fact that I am still on record for the Claimant and unable to get instructions in this matter thus far for the filing of Witness Statements and further conduct of this matter, I was forced to file an application on yesterday’s date to extend the time for the filing of such.

It is therefore untrue for you to assert that you have been effectively denied the opportunity to consider this matter including my position on same.

I am extremely conscious of the political sensitivity of this matter but will not accept blame-for the failure of your office and PETROTRIN to co-ordinate and provide the necessary instructions in a timely manner. 

I will also not allow myself to be used as the scapegoat in the event there exists a political intention to scuttle or sabotage these matters so that they do not proceed to trial. 

In this regard, I note that some of the defendants in these matters have been appointed by your government to public office.

Soon after your appointment as Attorney General, you had publicly committed yourself to reviewing these matters to make an objective determination of the future progress. 

I have not been informed if this exercise has been completed and no requests have been made of me to assist in this exercise in any way. 

I did however, forward the written opinion of Mr Martineau SC and Mr Nelson QC so that their views can be noted and taken into account.

I note your reference to the "unprofessional situation”. I do not accept that I have acted unprofessionally in this matter. I would suggest that it is totally unacceptable for me to be acting in this matter and would be unprofessional to do so without receiving any instructions for same and any remuneration whatsoever for the work that I have done thus far. 

I have sought such instructions from the Claimant but unfortunately due to whatever misunderstanding that has occurred I have not received the same. 

I do hope that our meeting tomorrow clarifies this position and we are able to agree the way forward in this matter. 

Having regard to the content of your missive, much of this could have been clarified at a much earlier date had I been so given such an opportunity.

I do look forward for our meeting on tomorrow’s date. Please note that Mr.Nelson QC is currently out of the jurisdiction but is expected to be here on or around the 15th February 2016, during which time he is willing to make himself available to meet with your goodself.

Thanking you in advance.

Your Respectfully,
Varun Debideen"

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