Trinidad & Tobago court strikes historic blow for transparency
Monday, August 4, 2014 at 10:18AM
Richard L. Cassin in Afra Raymond, Attorney-Client Privilege, Invader's Bay, Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry, Republic of Trinidad & Tobago

There was news of an important Trinidad & Tobago High Court decision from Afra Raymond -- an anti-corruption activist from T&T and the author of the popular Thinking Man's Weblog.

On July 14, he said, the High Court issued a landmark ruling that found that the "public interest" is more important than the "legal professional privilege."

In the case, the government had been relying on the legal professional privilege to suppress legal opinions about the legality of a real estate development called Invader's Bay.

The Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) -- a lobby group for the construction, real estate and property industries -- made public its concerns that the proposed large-scale development on the 70-acre reclaimed site in west Port-of-Spain was proceeding in breach of the country's tender laws.

The government responded that it had obtained legal advice that the Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the real estate development conformed to the applicable laws. But the T&T government flatly refused to publish the legal advice, even after the JCC made its request under T&T's Freedom of Information Act.

"The JCC sought a judicial review of the State's refusal to publish this critical advice and the High Court made two important rulings as to the waiver of the privilege by disclosure of the gist of the advice and as to the 'Public Interest' in this matter," Afra Raymond said.

The government has appealed the High Court ruling and both parties have now consented to an early Appeal Court hearing on November 20, 2014.

A copy of the July 14 Trinidad & Tobago High Court decision is here (pdf).

If you haven't seen Raymond Afra's great TED talk -- Three myths about corruption -- it's here.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

Article originally appeared on The FCPA Blog (http://www.fcpablog.com/).
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