By ALEXANDER BRUZUAL (Newsday).
Tuesday, November 8 2011
After a year of legal battles, yesterday businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson won their judicial review hearing against the decision of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to sign extradition warrants against them on October 9, 2010.
The decision was delivered yesterday by Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in the Port-of-Spain Assizes Third Court.
In a 57-page ruling, Justice Boodoosingh quashed Ramlogan’s decision saying that it was “unjust and oppressive.”
“The decision of the Attorney General to order the extradition of the claimants (Galbaransingh and Ferguson) to the United States of America is quashed. It is declared that the appropriate forum to try the claimants in relation to the award of contracts for the construction of the Piarco Airport is Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is declared that it would be unjust, oppressive and unlawful to order the extradition of the claimants and that (the) extradition is debarred by the operation of section 16(3) of the Extradition Act. Having regard to my clear finding on this issue I do not think it necessary to make an order of prohibition. The effect ought to be the same,” Boodoosingh informed the court.
When contacted by Newsday yesterday, the Attorney General indicated that he was aware of the judgment, however, at the time he was unable to say what his office’s next move would be.
“As of this moment, I have not seen the reasons of the learned judge as we have only just finished our National Security meeting. However, the Government respects the judge’s decision and shall act in a manner which is consistent with the judgment of the court.
But I also intend to speak to our legal advisers on the matter to analyse and discuss the decision to determine the way forward,” Ramlogan said.
Section 16(3) of the Act states that “The Attorney General shall not make an order under this section in the case of a person if it appears to the Attorney General, on the grounds mentioned in section 13(3), that it would be unjust or oppressive to return that person.”
As the decision was being read, both Galbaransingh and Ferguson could be seen smiling broadly at their lawyers — evidently happy at the fact that the decision had been in their favour.
Galbaransingh was represented by attorneys Andrew Mitchell QC and Rajiv Persad.
Ferguson was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC, Fyard Hosein SC, Rishi Dass, Sasha Bridgemohan, and Annette Mamchan.
The legal teams for both businessmen were instructed by attorney Nyree Alfonso.
The State was represented by Avory Sinanan SC, Kelvin Ramkissoon, Sunita Harrikissoon and Deowattee Dilraj-Battoosingh. They were instructed by attorney Janelle John.
Following the decision, Sinanan requested from the court a stay of execution on the decision for the next 28-days so that the State could assess the ruling and then decide if they would be making an appeal.
“What the AG will now consider is whether or not to appeal the decision, so given the circumstances...we would request that a stay of execution be implemented so that we could have an opportunity to review the ruling. If an appeal is not to be pursued by the State, then we will inform the other side as such,” Sinanan explained.
After further submissions, Justice Boodoosingh granted the State its request. As a result, the High Court Judge indicated that the bail for the two men will continue as fixed (at $2 million each). However, the condition that they report to the Four Roads Police Station would be removed.
Orders for costs by the claimants for the proceedings need to be filed on or before December 15. The responding submissions by the defence (the State) need to be filed by January 16, 2012.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are accused of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bid- rigging in relation to two construction packages for the Piarco Airport construction project.
The charges indicated the alleged acts took place in the United States and elsewhere between 1996 and 2001.
Ferguson alone is wanted on an 82-count indictment, including charges of laundering US$3,255,345 ($20,508,673) between the period November 24, 2000 and March 28, 2002.
Galbaransingh is wanted on a 13-count indictment, including charges of laundering US$1million ($6.3 million) between the period June 19, 2001 and December 10, 2001.
They are charged in accordance with Sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000. A United States grand jury returned the indictment against the two on November 29, 2005.
Charges against Galbaransingh and Ferguson in the local courts were discontinued, in favour of prosecution in the American courts.
Six foreign nationals have already been sentenced for their roles in the bid-rigging scheme.
The men benefitted from an almost 50 percent reduction of the penalties as part of a plea bargain arrangement with the US officials, and received jail time, were house arrested and were ordered to pay fines and atonement to the TT Government.
However, despite the ruling, the two businessmen will return to court on Friday as the Piarco II preliminary inquiry continues at the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are charged along with former Finance Minister Brian Kuei Tung, former Works and Transport minister, Sadiq Baksh, former chairmen of the Airport’s Authority, Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo, Peter Cateau and Amrith Maharaj.
On June 15, 2010, both Galbaransingh and Ferguson were arrested after the State had learned that their bail had expired. Following this, attorneys for the two men spent the next nine months making bail applications. On March 30, 2011, at their third attempt, the attorneys were able to secure bail before Justice Boodoosingh.
Previous applications, made in June, July and December of last year, were all shot down by the presiding judges — Justice Vasheist Kokaram, Justice Malcom Holdip, and Justice Andre Mon Desir respectively.
They were expected to be released on the same day, however, administrative problems led to their release on the following day.
Steve Ferguson, leaving court being freed of extradition charges yesterday.
Author: KEITH MATTHEWS