In defending the coalition Government’s out-of-court settlements – a move which Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said has caused the Treasury billions of dollars – Minister of State Joseph Harmon said Attorney General Basil Williams would have recommended these settlements after the previous Administration failed to defend the State in the respective cases.Speaking at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday, Minister Harmon explained that Cabinet was briefed on and approved the settlements.“These are recommendations made by the Attorney General and… whether it is out of court or in the court, whatever settlements are made that requires the State to pay over any resources, it is dealt with at Cabinet and full discussions take place there. Cabinet gives its guidance to the responsible minister,” he pointed out.Of recent, Government, particularly the Attorney General’s Chambers, has come under much criticism for not being able to secure success for several cases against the State. Since taking office, in addition to losing cases, Government has opted to enter into out-of-court settlements. Among those companies to benefit from these out-of-court settlements are BK International, which cashed in on US$5.7 million on a settlement, and more recently, a $226 million settlement with Guyana Tractor Equipment (Guytrac). Additionally, local spirits giant, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) would have also benefited from a $3.8 billion tax write-off in another out-of-court settlement.At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Jagdeo had raised concerns about this practice, asking whether the State is deliberately losing millions of dollars in court cases.“I wonder if people are benefiting financially from all of these settlements by claiming lack of knowledge?… I probably should say I am confident; but I am saying I wonder now that it is a conduit for corrupt activities – these big judgements,” the Opposition Leader suggested.However, on Friday, the Minister of State sought to bosh the claim saying these cases started under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime, which failed to defend them.Attorney General Basil WilliamsOn the other hand, the Government’s spokesperson went on to say that the present Administration wanted to uphold the rule of law by honouring those judgements delivered in the court against the State.“The matters which we settled were matters which were decided by the court and we felt that it was important to establish a regime of the rule of law, which said that we respect the judgements of courts… we cannot say that citizens who have been granted awards by the court that we can pay them.He noted that there are more cases and at the appropriate time the Attorney General will make a full statement of those matters.Among the cases which the State has lost is the one brought by local construction company, Dipcon Engineering Company at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in which Government was ordered to pay over $446 million. More recently, the State lost a case to another company, Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) in the local High Court and was ordered to pay $187 million.On several occasions, Attorney General Basil Williams would have blamed the fact his predecessor for dropping the ball on the cases, many of which he said were contracted out to private lawyers.However, only a few days ago, the Attorney General’s Chambers published an ad, calling on private lawyers representing the State on cases that were not handed out by him to notify the office immediately.However, the Opposition Leader questioned why such a move was made now and not three years ago when the Attorney General assumed the post.“Now he wants to know who had been doing representations on behalf of the Chambers for cases in the past and current cases… If anyone is worth his salt or even a one per cent level of competence, when you go to a desk you would say to the staff can you find out for me all the cases we have outstanding so that I could be apprised of the cases outstanding,” Jagdeo opined.Moreover, the Opposition Leader pointed out that his party had offered, through Nandlall, the coalition Administration, upon its assumption to office, assistance on many of the outstanding cases the State had in the courts. But the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change regime never accepted the offer.“They ignored the offer. He didn’t find out and then (AG Williams) blames the PPP every time there is a ruling against him,” Jagdeo said on Wednesday.Back in January, Williams had defended his performance, saying that the Chambers under his leadership has “won more than we’ve lost.”
Bulgarian’s Grigor Dimitrov claimed a first career win over former world number one Rafael Nadal at the eighth time of asking to reach the semi-finals of the China Open on Friday.Dimitrov, ranked 20th in the world, knocked out the second seed 6-2, 6-4 to set up a clash with Canada’s Milos Raonic.Top seed Andy Murray faced some stern resistance against fellow Briton Kyle Edmund before winning 7-6(9), 6-2.Edmund’s barrage of heavy forehands worried Murray in the opening set and the world number two trailed 2-5 in the tiebreak and had to save a set point before converting his fifth.Despite Edmund breaking early in the second set, Murray raised his level to win six games in a row.”He (Edmund) made it very tough for me. He’s improving at a solid pace now… If he keeps going on the path he’s on just now, he’ll be up at the top of the game very soon,” Murray, a three-times grand slam winner, told reporters.Murray will face fifth seed David Ferrer in the semis after the Spaniard beat in-form 19-year-old Alexander Zverev 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 in two hours and 21 minutes.”Every match against him, he certainly makes you earn it. There’s not many short points against him,” Murray said of his next challenge.Dimitrov, bidding to reach his third final of the year after a return to form, capitalised on Nadal’s low first serve percentage to claim the opening set comfortably.Nadal was far tougher in the second set but Dimitrov held his nerve to beat the 30-year-old Spaniard.advertisement”It’s obvious that Grigor played much better than me and he deserved to win,” Nadal said of a match that began with five consecutive service breaks.”I fought until the last ball, but was going against psychologically bad feelings because I was suffering with my serve. When that happens, you have to go to the next tournament because you don’t deserve to win like this.”Nadal will move on to Shanghai.Due to Thursday’s rain in Beijing, the big-serving Raonic was forced to play twice, beating Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-4 and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-4 to advance.