This morning the Court of Appeal dismissed an application filed by Former Attorney General and PPP-aligned lawyer, Anil Nandlall in which he asked the court to quash a charge which alleged that he fraudulently converted 14 Commonwealth Law Reports valued at $2,313,853, property of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, to his own use and benefit.
Nandlall had moved to the Court seeking Judicial Review after Trial Magistrate Fabayo Azore overruled a no-case submission made on his behalf. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal held that it will not intervene in the matter as the trial proceedings have already commenced before the Magistrate. The Court also held that though it can exercise its supervisory jurisdiction to review such a decision by a Magistrate, it will only do so in extreme and limited circumstances.
Nandlall is alleged to have committed the offence between May 8 and May 29, 2015, at Georgetown. He is out on self bail.
Following the Magistrate’s decision to overrule the no-case submission made by Nandlall’s lawyer, an action was filed before the Chief Justice to have the charge quashed.
Nandlall’s lawyers, among other things, had contended that the charge, Larceny by a Bailee, instituted against him is an unknown offence, and therefore it is in violation of Articles 40, 144(4) and 149(d) of the Constitution of Guyana. The Chief Justice, however, did not agree. In fact, she ruled that Section 165 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act makes provisions for such a charge.
Before the Chief Justice, Nandlall’s lawyers had taken issue with the Magistrate not giving reasons for her decision to overrule the no-case submission. In this regard, the lawyers contended that the Magistrate was in violation of Section 15 of the Judicial Review Act.
It states: “It is the duty of any person or body making an administrative decision, if requested in accordance with this section by any person adversely affected by the decision, to supply that person with a statement setting out the findings on material question of fact, referring to the evidence or other material on which those findings were based and giving the reasons for the decision.”
However, the Chief Justice held that Magistrates usually give reasons for decisions at the end of trials via a Memorandum of Reason. The Chief Justice pointed out that the Magistrate was not in violation of Section 15 of the Judicial Review Act, which speaks of reasons for handing down administrative and non-judicial decisions.
Nandlall was previously reported as saying that when he took up the post of Attorney General, he did so at a loss and it was for that reason he agitated for the State to pay for the Law Reports. He had said that the arrangement received the blessings of the then Head of State, Donald Ramotar. However, investigators are contending that because the books were bought with State funds, they cannot be the property of Nandlall and, in fact, the State should not have entered into such an arrangement in the first place.
The Ministry of Legal Affairs is further contending that there is no evidence of an agreement between Nandlall and Ramotar and, even assuming that there was such an agreement, the use of public funds in this manner is a flagrant violation of the Financial Management and Accountability Act. Nandlall was charged after SOCU, an arm of the Guyana Police Force, completed investigations.