Piloting an amendment to the Financial Intelligence Unit Act in Parliament, Ramlogan said Francois will act in the position until the State completes a streamlining exercise “to rationalise” the FIU.
Ramlogan described Francois, an eminent attorney at law, as a distinguished public servant “of the highest calibre”. A lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School, Francois holds a bachelor’s degree in law as well as master’s in corporate and commercial law. Ramlogan said he “personally” took the opportunity to speak to the persons listed as her references on her CV (Justice Rolston Nelson and Justice Charmaine Pemberton).
Newsday understands Francois will now have to step down from the Office of the Registrar General in order to take up the post.
The Attorney General’s announcement came as he, for a second day in a row, raised questions over the PNM’s past appointment of West to the post of “Director Designate” of the FIU. Ramlogan charged that under the FIU Act, such a post does not exist. He quoted letters which show that West would sign correspondences as “Director” although that was never his official designation.
For instance, by letter dated August 25, 2010, West signed a letter to the PS of the Ministry of Finance in which he declined to allow staff at the FIU to be trained in a fraud examiners seminar.
“I would not recommend personnel of the FIU,” West wrote, signing the letter as “Director” of the FIU. Section 3(2) of the FIU Act reads, “the FIU shall consist of such number of suitably qualified public officers, including a Director and Deputy Director as may be necessary.” Ramlogan argued that West, employed as a consultant at the Ministry of the Attorney General, was not a “public officer” appointed by the Public Service Commission at the time. Ramlogan also argued that West, who worked for former Attorney General John Jeremie’s office, would have had access to sensitive information. He also noted that throughout, West remained an attorney in private practice.
“Mr West had a private practice. He had resigned from the public service. He was consultant for the Ministry of the Attorney General, brought in by the former AG,” he said. “So he is reporting to the Attorney General who is the boss and he has access to all the sensitive financial intelligence and information. Connect the dots and see if that is not a conflict of interest I do not know what is.”
Ramlogan continued, “He wine to the side, and he wine to the next side and he remained in the middle.
He had the best of not two worlds but the best of three worlds. And the conflict of interest undermined the very spirit of the legislation. And that is what they did.”
Contacted by Newsday yesterday, West described Ramlogan’s questioning as “a red herring”. He admitted that stationary at the FIU referred to him as “Director” but in his view this was not a substantial point.
“I have cards made from FIU saying I am a director but the point is I was director in waiting. I was holding on. It was not a political appointment. I was just the best person for the job. I am a hard worker,” West said. He rejected Ramlogan’s allegations of possibly siphoning information to the former AG.
In a written statement West also responded to the argument that his appointment was not permissible under the Act. In his view, Section 3 allowed his appointment.
“The legislation permits the appointment on contract of ‘other persons’ who are not public officers,” he argued. He denied divulging sensitive information to the former Attorney General and said that as an attorney he had the capacity to act independently.