ARIMA, Trinidad — The body of Kern Romero, the second man to be linked to a public housing scandal involving embattled Trinidad and Tobago chief justice, Ivor Archie, was found in a marsh in the area around Arima in Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon, shot dead, according to the Braveboy Report, run by Caribbean News Now contributor Marcia Braveboy.
Romero, a hairdresser who was convicted of fraud-related charges in 2015, and was also an alleged homosexual, used Archie’s name as a contact and had conned several individuals out of thousands of dollars, promising them Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homes within two months, telling his victims that the chief justice was his contact and showed them text exchanges between himself and Archie as well as pictures to validate his claims.
Romero’s death comes just months after another gay man, Dillian Johnson, who was also convicted on fraud related charges in 2008, fled Trinidad for his life after he claimed his connection with Archie was the reason behind an assassination attempt.
Johnson, who was shot at in front of his house after detailing his relationship with Archie to a journalist, was also linked to the HDC scandal with Romero, after it was found that both men used Archie’s influence as chief justice to request that HDC’s public housing units to be allocated ahead of a lengthy waiting list.
It was also reported in the Trinidad Sunday Express by Denyse Renne that Archie tried to influence Supreme Court justices to change their personal state-provided security in favour of a private security company that employed Johnson.
After the news was made public in various media outlets, Johnson was shot at eight times at his home after he met with a local journalist to reveal details of his relationship with Archie.
In addition, photographs, personal conversations and information about the special relationship Archie and Johnson shared began to come out, most notably details of a government sponsored trip to Guyana that Johnson claimed to have accompanied Archie.
Photographic evidence was published by Johnson of him and Archie sharing a room together, but these reports have been denied by Archie, who also claimed the pictures were fabricated.
All of this comes as Archie is currently on extended vacation leave, after having his request for sabbatical leave challenged and subsequently changed to vacation leave after protests by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) about his initial sabbatical request.
The LATT won an appeal last week when acting chief justice, Allan Mendonça, struck down an earlier ruling that the LATT were not allowed to investigate the chief justice on the matter of misconduct and possible corruption, particularly on the grounds that they would be patently biased and would be unable judiciously to carry out that function.
In the midst of the HDC scandal, links to the deceased Romero and to Johnson, Archie is also facing a myriad of other matters brought to light by the LATT with regard to his decision making, possible misconduct and errors of judgment.
In June 2017, the LATT called on Archie to step down after passing no-confidence motions against him and the members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) over its handling of the short-lived appointment as a high court judge of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.
Controversy and recriminations arose following the appointment of Ayers-Caesar as a high court judge without any or adequate consideration being given by any of those involved to her extensive list of over 50 part-heard matters in the magistrates’ court, which may have led to the dismissal of many of the cases.
Ayers-Caesar’s nomination was revoked, and she is pursuing several legal challenges on how the matter played out, and in which she has named former Trinidad and Tobago president, Anthony Carmona, an action which has been granted leave to proceed to the Privy Council.
Former United National Congress (UNC) minister of justice, and former Supreme Court Justice, Herbert Volney, first brought to light the possibility of the judiciary being compromised through Archie in his September 2010 contribution in parliament, when he claimed that Archie had brokered a “sweetheart deal” with housing, a claim Archie said was a mischaracterisation of the benefits allowed to judges in Trinidad and one where Volney sought intentionally to mislead the public.
With Romero dead, Dillian Johnson is now in hiding in the United Kingdom, having shared his narrow escape from death with the British media, and has reportedly been granted political asylum for fear of returning to Trinidad where he may face the similar fate as Romero.
The current investigation and court proceedings into the possible misconduct by Archie, and the extent to which the LATT is allowed to bring forward independent investigations into his tenure and subsequent position as chief justice, is also headed to the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for Trinidad and Tobago.