Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) leader Phillip Alexander has denied that he defamed business magnate Ricky Raghunanan.
Alexander made the denial on Thursday in a letter issued by his attorney Matthew Gayle in response to a threat of a defamation lawsuit by Raghunanan, who operates the Ricky Raghunanan Group of Companies.
In the letter, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Gayle claimed that the statements, posted on his (Alexander) Facebook page last Tuesday, were intended to call upon Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissesser to explain policy decisions taken with respect to Raghunanan’s business during their respective tenures.
“It is frankly fanciful for your client to suggest, as is done in your letter, that this was intended to impute that your client is ‘dishonest and criminal-minded, as well as devoid of any level of integrity,” Gayle said.
Referring to Alexander’s decision to cite an alleged $8,000 invoice issued by one of his company’s for a tent rental contract, Gayle noted that the allegation was in the public domain and that he (Raghunanan) sought to address it publicly after it was raised.
He also noted that Raghunanan never denied that he had business transactions with the Government in the past.
Gayle also sought to address Alexander’s reference to an incident in which US$2 million was seized by police, noting it was widely reported that Raghunanan was questioned by police over it in 2017.
“The matter is, therefore, a matter of public interest has been widely reported and my client did no more than make passing reference to this fact in the words complained of.
“He offered no commentary nor opinion thereon, and no suggestion and/or innuendo can be drawn there from,” Gayle said.
In the letter, Gayle also complained that Alexander was not properly served with the legal correspondence and that it was quoted in the media before he received a copy.
Gayle also accused Raghunanan’s lawyers Criston J Williams and Kashif Gibson of defaming Alexander in their original correspondence.
In that correspondence, Gibson suggested that the post damaged Raghunanan’s character and brought him into ridicule and contempt.
“To make our position clear; essentially your statements are defamatory as they tend to lower the perception of our client in the estimation of right-thinking members of society and so cause him to be shunned or avoided or be exposed to hatred, contempt, ridicule or which may disparage him in his office, trade, calling, profession or business,” he said.
Through the proposed lawsuit, Raghunanan is seeking an injunction barring Alexander from repeating the controversial allegations and apologies on social media and in daily newspapers.
Raghunanan is also seeking financial compensation.