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Attorney-General stonewalls lawsuit questions

Attorney-General Trevor Moniz. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Attorney-General Trevor Moniz stonewalled questions yesterday on how much the Bermuda Government’s lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic was likely to cost taxpayers.

The civil complaint, filed in a federal court in Massachusetts and naming Ewart Brown as a “non-party co-conspirator”, seeks unspecified damages for alleged “corrupt enterprises” that were carried out “at the expense of the Bermudian Government and people”.

It states Lahey reaped “huge returns” from the schemes and should not be permitted to retain the benefits it acquired through its “unlawful conduct”.

The complaint claims: “All funds, revenues and benefits received by them rightfully belong to Bermuda and should be returned to Bermuda in an amount to be determined at trial.”

The Attorney-General’s Chambers has hired Boston legal firm Cooley to pursue the case and, this week, The Boston Globe newspaper reported that Mr Moniz had provided a written statement on the case to Boston public relations firm Liberty Square Group, working with Cooley. The Royal Gazette asked for a copy of that statement from Mr Moniz and the Department of Communications and Information, but was sent a different statement instead, which said the Attorney-General’s Chambers had conducted “many months of investigations” before issuing the proceedings.

This newspaper followed up with questions about the case, which went unanswered. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The statement from yesterday stands and there will be no comment from the AG Chambers.”

Our questions included:

• How much is the lawsuit estimated to cost taxpayers in legal fees?

• What kind of damages or relief is being sought?

• Why have no proceedings been brought in Bermuda’s courts, and will they be?

• What was the cost to taxpayers of hiring a Boston public relations firm to issue a statement about the complaint?

• Why was the decision taken to do that and was it Cabinet-approved?

• How many investigators does the Attorney-General’s Chambers have and how many have been working on this investigation?

• When did the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ investigation start?

• What collaboration between the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Bermuda Police Service has taken place in relation to this complaint?

• Will the case have an impact on Lahey’s status as a partner hospital of the publicly funded Bermuda Hospitals Board and a preferred provider for the Government’s FutureCare and HIP health insurance schemes?

Wendell Hollis, a former lawyer of Dr Brown’s and former deputy chairman of the BHB, criticised Mr Moniz for making a statement about the court matter through a public relations firm.

In a Letter to the Editor, he wrote: “Had the Attorney-General made such a press statement in Bermuda after proceedings had been commenced in our Supreme Court, he clearly would have been in contempt of that court.

“While this may be an American way to practise law, fortunately it is still not acceptable in Bermuda.

“We still follow the common law-enshrined principle that it is contempt of court to make such statements once proceedings have commenced, as such statements clearly bring with them the possibility that a juror, witness, public opinion or even a judge may become prejudiced or influenced by reading or hearing of such remarks particularly given the eminence from which they come.

“Sadly, if one reads the remarks they will no doubt come to the opinion that they were deliberately made for exactly that purpose.”

Mr Hollis is not mentioned by name in the complaint but is clearly referred to in a section accusing Dr Brown of facilitating the appointment to the BHB of his “personal lawyer and confidante (sic)”.

When contacted by The Royal Gazette yesterday, Mr Hollis accepted that the reference was made to him but added: “I barely knew Ewart Brown at the time I was appointed deputy chairman and didn’t become his lawyer until long after my five years was up on the BHB.”

Mr Hollis, who expresses in his letter emotions of “dismay and sadness” and admits to being “still bewildered as to why civil proceedings have been commenced in the United States”, said he has not read the complaint and had no knowledge of the reference to him in it until contacted by The Royal Gazette.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.