December 10, 2023

Conflicting reports resolved over cause of death of gay man linked to Trinidad and Tobago chief justice

By Youri Kemp From Caribbean News Now

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Almost a month after the death of convicted felon, Kern Romero, the gay friend of Chief Justice Ivor Archie implicated in a public housing fraud scheme that he (Romero) was convicted of in 2015, the conflicting reports as to how he died have apparently been put to rest.

The Trinidad Guardian’s digital editor, Sampson Nanton, told Caribbean News Now that he spoke directly with family members of Romero, who confirmed that Romero did in fact die in hospital on Friday, May 25, and was not found shot in the head in the Arima village of Congo on the following day as reported initially.

The initial confusion over the exact cause of death is now said to be as a result of confusion over two bodies, one of which — the body of the person found shot dead in Arima — was unidentified but nevertheless became linked to Romero.

No autopsy or police report on the unidentified man has been made public to date as far as Caribbean News Now is aware.

The autopsy report of Romero is also not available. However, Nanton confirmed that the family states that he died after a lengthy illness at hospital.

Several local news outlets also reported that Romero was identified as the man shot in the head in Arima.

Other reports also stated that Romero was thrown off of a cliff and died from his injuries.

The Trinidad Express reported a day afterwards that Romero had died in hospital after a lengthy illness and, after the conflicting reports in the media, other news sources, including the Trinidad Guardian, confirmed this with follow up meetings with family members.

The importance of the exact cause of death of Romero, if by murder or assassination, was viewed in the context of controversial allegations of an assassination attempt of another close friend of Archie, Dillian Johnson, who it has been alleged by the Trinidad and Tobago Law Association (LATT) that Archie had business links with.

Johnson fled Trinidad for the United Kingdom where he is requesting political asylum, after a botched assassination attempt on his life last year on December 6 after which he left for the UK on December 29, 2017.

Johnson was also involved in a public housing allocation scandal, as was Romero, in that Johnson was among a number of people granted Housing Development Corporation (HDC) units after Archie personally intervened with a senior HDC official to fast-track the applications.

It was also alleged that Archie proposed to his fellow judges that they swap their state-provided personal security officers for others provided by a company that employed Johnson as a consultant.

Archie has denied these allegations strenuously, and has taken an extended leave of absence while these pressing matters and allegations swirl around his tenure.

Currently, a recent ruling by the acting chief justice in Archie’s absence, Allen Mendonca, overturned a previous decision on an appeal from a lower court and confirmed that the LATT does indeed have the right to call into question, probe and investigate the office of the chief justice and subsequently any member of the judiciary if it believes malfeasance, corruption or misconduct is taking place.

Archie is appealing the latest court ruling to the Privy Council.

IMAGE: Kern Romero

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