Another blow to Armour – US Appeal Court upholds his removal from Piarco case

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Another blow to Armour – US Appeal Court upholds his removal from Piarco case

In what is another blow to the credibility of Attorney General Reginald Armour, a United States appellate court has disqualified him from representing the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in an asset forfeiture case linked to the construction of the Piarco International Airport more than two decades ago.

Judges Eric Hendon, Monica Gordo and Alexander Bokor of the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, on Wednesday affirmed the ruling made in April last year by Circuit Court Judge Reemberto Diaz.

The judge had approved a motion to disqualify Armour from the civil case after he had represented the defendant Brian Kuei Tung in a criminal matter with the same facts in a Trinidad court.

In their ruling the appellate court judges said they left the case of disqualification of counsel to the “sound discretion of the trial judge.”

They agreed that both Armour and the firm Sequor Law should be disqualified.

This latest loss for the AG, came on the same day he sought to explain the State’s failure to defend itself in a malicious prosecution lawsuit brought by nine men acquitted of the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. With no defence, the State was ordered to pay over $20m in compensation to the nine.

The AG filed an appeal on June 1, after he and Sequor Law were disqualified. A motion to expedite hearing of the appeal was denied, and it was heard on January 17.

Armour said he disclosed his apparent conflict of interest to Sequor Law, at his initial meeting on March 30, two weeks after his appointment as AG, and was relying on the firm’s legal advice.
He nevertheless still signed-off on several related matters, including an agreement for a co-operating witness to testify against the Piarco accused in criminal proceedings in TT, and settlement of invoices of the law firm, among other matters.

In a sworn affidavit, Armour claimed he was “walled off” by the law firm after he disclosed he had been one of Kuei Tung’s lawyers. He described himself in that affidavit as a junior lawyer – basically a note-taker – who had a minimal role in Kuei Tung’s defence. But public records conflicted with Armour’s recollection.
On June 20, Armour admitted to a memory lapse when he filed his affidavit on April 24, and was prepared to correct the record on April 27, while the US court was sitting to hear the motions, even though he was on vacation in Europe at that time.

An examination of the court’s transcript of April 27, 2022, did not reflect any attempt to correct the court record by the US attorneys representing TT, although former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi attended the hearing as the substitute client representative for TT after Armour recused himself.
The US judge rejected the motion to strike out the entire lawsuit.