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Section 34 case delays Ish, Steve PI

By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Saturday, February 9 2013

IN light of a High Court Judge’s decision to deliver her judgement in April on Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act, a Port-of-Spain magistrate yesterday adjourned the preliminary inquiry into a billion-dollar fraud case pending the outcome of the judgment.

Eight persons re-appeared yesterday before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet, presiding in Courtroom Four B of the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, charged with defrauding the State of $1.5 billion in the Piarco International Airport expansion project.

The accused persons are: businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh; former Finance Minister Brian Kuei Tung; former Works and Transport Minister Sadiq Baksh; former chairmen of the Airports Authority Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo; Peter Cateau and Amrith Maharaj.

As soon as the case was called yesterday, defence attorney Trevor Clarke informed Espinet that High Court Judge, Justice Mira Dean-Armorer, is expected to deliver her judgment on April 12 on the Section 34 case. Clarke added he was holding for attorney Michelle Solomon-Baksh, who was absent from yesterday’s hearing.

State prosecutor Stacy Benjamin-Roach asked for the case to be put off for a date later than April 12 and Espinet adjourned the case to April 26.

The court heard that Benjamin-Roach held for attorneys Gilbert Peterson SC and Elaine Green, who were also absent from the hearing yesterday.

The fraud charges against the eight accused persons arose out of the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport.

At the previous hearing in November last attorneys who represented both the prosecution and defence in the Piarco II inquiry had informed Magistrate Espinet of their decision to temporarily put on hold the criminal prosecution until the determination of the Section 34 and constitutional motions filed by the accused persons in the High Court.

Some of the accused persons in the Piarco II inquiry are among the 26 applicants who are seeking freedom under the controversial and now repealed section of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.

The section had allowed for persons who are alleged to have committed an offence ten or more years ago to be freed once the matter had not yet come to trial.

Espinet will decide on April 26 whether or not she will continue with the inquiry, depending on the judge’s ruling.

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