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George ordered to pay lawyers

Wednesday April 03, 2013 Written by Published in Crime

Lawyer and politician Norman George has been ordered to pay the bill incurred while he was chasing up costs for his Operation Slush acquittal.

Last month, Justice Hugh Williams ordered George to pay the $12,175.88 legal bill he owes to solicitors Little & Matysik.

George faced 14 conspiracy and corruption charges during Operation Slush – the longest running criminal trial in Cook Islands history – and was acquitted in April 2010, along with his co-accused Charles Koronui and Chris Vaile.

Little & Matysik was hired by George to work on his application for costs. Justice Williams noted in his judgment lawyer Charles Little had misgivings about accepting George as a client because of what he had heard and experienced as to George’s ability to pay his debts on time.

They entered into a contract on April 27, 2010 and the law firm worked “energetically” for a year to prepare George’s costs submissions, said the judge.

Although George said in court some of the firms invoices over this period were “phantom”, this was not accepted by Justice Williams, who said George had never complained to the firm before of this and a great complexity of detail would have been needed for the costs claim due to the length of the original trial.

Little & Matysik submitted a 27 page costs claim and were successful. In December 2010 Justice Nicholson ordered police to pay George $126,206.81 to go towards his legal costs, which had racked up over the 18 month trial.

But Little & Matysik is not the only law firm owed money by George. His lawyer during Operation Slush, Tim Arnold, is still owed the whole of his $24,750 fee.

In his judgment, Justice Williams noted the high point for George was when he was awarded costs, but it had gone “downhill” from then for him.

This included the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management taking a large chunk of the awarded costs for around $80,000 in unpaid income taxes.

George said in court his professional practice has been seriously damaged despite his acquittal and that, from his incomes as a lawyer and an MP, he remains unable to pay the law firm’s invoices, especially in a lump sum. He asked the court to be lenient in terms of interest on top of the claim.

On top of paying the $12,175.88 owed to Little & Matysik, the court ordered George to pay 8 per cent interest from February 1, 2012 to the date of judgment – March 21, 2013 – and from then until the date of payment.

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