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[Trinidad] Decade-old Piarco 2 corruption case to start over

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[Trinidad] Decade-old Piarco 2 corruption case to start over

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Nov 15, 2019

https://newsday.co.tt/2019/11/14/decade ... tart-over/

[Trinidad] Decade-old Piarco 2 corruption case to start over
Jada Loutoo
14 November, 2019

The almost-completed, decade-long Piarco II corruption and bid-rigging inquiry against seven men – including former UNC ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Sadiq Baksh, and businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh – may have to start over.

This was the effect of the ruling of Justice Devindra Rampersad in a judicial review claim filed by Ferguson, Galbaransingh, Peter Cateau, Kuei Tung and former Airports Authority chairman Tyrone Gopee.

They challenged the decision of the DPP to exercise his power under section 23(8) of the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Inquiry) Act and file an indictment against them although the magisterial proceedings had not yet come to an end. They accused the DPP of attempting to circumvent the committal process by preferring an indictment.

In his decision, Rampersad held that the wording in the act was clear and unambiguous.

He granted the declarations they sought, ordering that the DPP could not lawfully exercise his power to prefer an indictment because the preliminary inquiry in the Piarco 2 proceedings had started before September 15, 2005, and was expressly barred by Section 23 (h) of the act.

Rampersad also held that the claimants “can only be lawfully committed to trial for the offences first inquired into at the PI, after the institution and conduct of a fresh preliminary enquiry before a new magistrate.”

The magistrate presiding over the Piarco 2 inquiry, Ejenny Espinet, retired in May 2018, which led to the questions of jurisdiction being raised.

And while there are provisions in law to postpone the date of retirement, there is no compulsion on the part of the magistrate to stay on.

The decade-old inquiry, which stalled because of numerous legal challenges which went to the Privy Council and back, resumed in 2017, but was in its end stages in 2018, with the defence presenting its case.

In 2017, the accused moved to stay the inquiry against them, as they sought to have Espinet removed from hearing the almost-completed cases on the basis of bias. They said in her rejection of their no-case submission on February 10, Espinet concluded there was a prima-facie case against them when she had no jurisdiction to make such a finding.

They alleged that the magistrate, in her “flawed” ruling, made a series of conclusive adverse findings against them, and had already reached a conclusion on their committal without giving them an opportunity to advance their defence.

Before the magistrates’ court are Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh, along with former UNC ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Sadiq Baksh, former Airports Authority chairman Tyrone Gopee and Galbaransingh’s former employee Amrith Maharaj.

Galbaransingh and Ferguson’s companies Northern Construction Ltd and Maritime General Insurance are also implicated as parties in the inquiry. They, along with several others, were implicated between 2004 and 2005 for alleged corruption and bid-rigging arising out of the Piarco Airport Development Project between 1995 and 2001.

In their judicial review claim, they argued that the inquiry started before September 15, 2005, and according to an amendment of the act, the power by the DPP to prefer indictments where a preliminary inquiry had started by the magistrate was prevented from completing the proceedings by reason of retirement and where the evidence discloses a prima facie case, was statute-barred and did not apply to matters which began before the commencement of the act on September 15, 2005.

However, DPP contended that the inquiry did not start in 2005 then but in 2008.

In his ruling, Rampersad said the decision rested on the particular statutory provision that applied in the case. He also said the statute intended for the beginning of the preliminary inquiry to be the appearance of the accused before the magistrate.

Representing the five who filed the judicial review claim were Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, Edward Fitzgerald, SC, Sasha Bridgemohan, Aadam Hosein and Annette Mamchan. The DPP was represented by attorney Elaine Green.

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