Former United States diplomat
James Jatras has written to House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-
George, accusing Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of ma­king “unfounded defamatory” remarks against him.
Jatras, in a letter dated February 20, made reference to remarks Rowley made in the Parliament on February 13.
According to the Hansard, Rowley had taken issue over Jat­ras’ position on the controversial Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation.
Jatras, who now runs a legal firm in Washington DC, USA, which specialises in foreign affairs and human rights, has launched a worldwide campaign for the US Treasury to repeal FATCA.
Rowley had warned Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bis­sessar of taking advice from Jatras.
Jatras praised Persad-Bissessar’s courage for writing US President Donald Trump and taking a stand with respect to FATCA.
Rowley said: “I am simply saying to my colleagues, you got to be careful who you are talking to and who is advising you because Mr Jatras is commercial business for hire. If you want to be seen as the emperor of Babylon, he is for hire to promote you in that way. So we are unimpressed to what Mr Jatras has to say. As a matter of fact, if you see who Mr Jatras’ clients are, I would advise my colleague, the Member for Siparia, to stay far from him.”
Rowley had also said Jatras’ law firm was “notorious for publicly defending or contracting himself to work on behalf of odious international figures and I could name many of them”.
In his letter to the House Speaker, Jatras stated that Rowley made his comments with the “clear purpose of adversely affecting my reputation and inflicting injury to me in my occupation”.
He reiterated his warnings on the passage of the FATCA legislation, pointing out that such a path would diminish Trinidad and Tobago’s national sovereignty, inflict unnecessary costs on this country’s consumers and taxpayers (costs which the government has not yet disclosed, for example, the amount of public money that will be spent by T&T’s State institutions acting as virtual agents of the IRS), and violate the privacy of residents of Trinidad and Tobago–an abuse not limited to holders of US passports.
Jatras stated that Rowley chose to discredit him personally and professionally rather than answer the merits of his assertions.
Tackling Rowley’s claim that he (Jatras) was “for hire”, Jatras stated that he has incurred thousands in costs and man hours in his bid to have FATCA repealed, utilising
“In doing so I have incurred unreimbursed out-of-pocket costs into the thousands of dollars of my own money and devoted many hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours I could better have put into compensated activities. I did so because I regard FATCA as an outrage against the rule of law, personal privacy, due process, sound governance, and international comity. Granted, I also did so in part with the aim of putting the activity on paying basis at some point. Recently, with the launch of the Washington-based Campaign to Repeal FATCA at the initiative of Nigel Green, founder and CEO of deVere Group, some financial support has begun,” he stated.
He added that while he believes the campaign has an excellent chance of success, the funds available to it are a small fraction of the profits accruing to the “self-interested” FATCA compliance industry.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if the effort to repeal FATCA had at its disposal just one day’s revenues extracted by compliance vendors from Trinidad and Tobago alone this oppressive and hare-brained law would already be an unpleasant memory. If Dr. Rowley is looking for mercenary motives, I suggest he turn his gaze to persons in the compliance industry whose eager assurances to everyone that FATCA is here to stay have been widely quoted in the media. The same could be said regarding the late report that CARICOM has decided to retain US lobbying services to achieve a soft landing for FATCA compliance, which at a reported US$240,000 do not seem to be offered gratis,” he stated.
There has been no indication from the Parliament that the Speaker will take any action on Jatras’ letter.