“I have not yet received my remit from the President (George Maxwell Richards) but if it contains responsibility with respect to anti-corruption matters, my remit is to investigate,” Jeremie told reporters yesterday at the ruling PNM’s Sports and Family Day, Eddie Hart Grounds, Tacarigua.
Jeremie stood by his powers to investigate in response to a Sunday Newsday report of a letter he sent to High Court judge Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer in 2006, during his first term as Attorney General, concerning his consideration of sending a file on “criminal activity” at Colonial Life Insurance Co Ltd (Clico) to then Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson.
He also commented on a Sunday Express report on an exchange of letters with Henderson, who is now a High Court judge, questioning why Henderson was slow to act on evidence in several matters.
Jeremie said he found the leak of the letter on Clico “curious”.
“I find that very peculiar; a barrage of leaks dealing with one institution, Clico. You may know that the Government is involved in a relationship with Colonial Life and that is all I have to say on that matter for the time being,” he said. Jeremie was referring to Government’s intervention in the operations of Clico through the Central Bank which currently manages the insurance giant through a hand-picked board after a memorandum of understanding was signed in January with CL Financial, the parent company of Clico.
Canadian forensic investigator Bob Lindquist, as well as accounting firm KPMG has been appointed to untangle the web of how Clico was operated under CL Financial.
In his 2006 letter to Stollmeyer, Jeremie had said the file on Clico related to “two high-ranking officials”. Stollmeyer was investigating a suspect land deal involving Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls and a CL Financial subsidiary.
Coincidentally, Jeremie’s reappointment as Attorney General came in the wake of the shock resignation of his predecessor Bridgid Annisette-George, who, according to Prime Minister Patrick Manning, did so because of a conflict of interest in Clico.
Asked if he would act on the file he had on the high-ranking Clico officials, Jeremie would only say that it would be within his powers to probe anti-corruption matters, although it is the DPP who has to prosecute.
“The DPP’s remit is to prosecute if he thinks that the investigation shows up evidence that warrants prosecution,” said Jeremie.
As for his letters to Henderson related to matters such as Desalcott, the desalination plant in Pt Lisas which was the result of a tender under the former UNC administration, Jeremie said it was within his authority to question the DPP on the status of such cases.
“If the DPP defers to take action, it is entirely within the remit of the Attorney General to ask him what is going on with this matter and why are you not proceeding.
“That is all I sought to do in these letters,” he said, adding, “I did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“I did not take a decision to prosecute, that is the DPP’s remit. What I was doing was asking him, what are you doing with the matters which taxpayers had thrown how much money into. Bob Lindquist was detained by the Government and he was reporting to the Attorney General and not the DPP.
“I stand by those letters and everything I have signed.”
Jeremie insisted that he was doing his job “as a strong Attorney General” and likened his performance to that of former UNC attorney general, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who has opposed the re-appointment of Jeremie.
“Indeed Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was doing his job as a strong AG. This is a man who has things to say about me when I have nothing to say about him except good things. He did his job as AG just as I was doing my job as AG.”