Ish, Steve fight for freedom
By JADA LOUTOO Thursday, September 13 2012
click on pic to zoom in
Carlos and AG: Former UNC minister Carlos John, one of the accused in the Piarco fraud cases, chats with Attorney General Anand Ramlogan during the In...
BUSINESSMEN Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh have all intentions of fighting for their freedom from prosecution for fraud, despite the repeal of the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.
The two, as well as most of the persons before the courts in the decade-old Piarco criminal prosecutions, will not give up, sources close to the group said yesterday.
Over the last six days, those accused in the Piarco 1 and 2 prosecutions rushed to the courts to file petitions to have charges against them dropped.
Another was filed yesterday on behalf of former UNC works and transport minister Sadiq Baksh, hours before Government went to the Parliament to repeal the controversial delay clause in the Act, Newsday was told. The clause was yesterday expected to be repealed by the Lower House with a provision allowing for the permanent staying of all applications brought under Section 34. The Senate is expected to undergo the same task today.
However, legal sources close to the men said they will challenge this in the courts, taking it all the way to the London Privy Council.
One source indicated that now that they know the provisions by which Parliament repealed the clause, they will now meet with their clients to discuss the next step. They are looking at the possibility of mounting legal arguments on the basis of abuse as well as infringement of their constitutional rights to protection by the law as they contend their rights cannot be taken away by the Parliament retrospectively. According to one attorney, the courts will have to turn to the Interpretation Act to determine if a person who was entitled to benefit under a law at the time should be deprived because of the decision to repeal the act.
“Clearly they had a substantial right. Section 34 gave them a right which they never had before,” the source said.
Those who had filed petitions in the High Court were former Airports Authority executive Amrith Maharaj, Ferguson, Galbaransingh, Maritime Life General Insurance Company Ltd executives John Henry Smith and Barbara Gomes as well as the company itself and Maritime Finance, Galbaransingh’s Northern Construction Ltd, Fidelity Finance Leasing Company Ltd, former finance minister Brian Keui Tung, former works minister Carlos John, former national security minister Russell Huggins and businessman Ameer Edoo.
They were all charged in relation to allegations of corruption tied to the UNC’s $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport project. The law provided that after the expiration of ten years from the date on which an offence is alleged to have been committed persons will be given automatic freedom when they apply before a judge in chambers.
In their applications, those before the courts in the Piarco 1 and 2 prosecutions advised that pursuant to Section 34(3) (d) of the Act, they were entitled to seek an order that a verdict of not-guilty be recorded by a judge of the High Court and that they be discharged having satisfied both provisions laid down in the statute. In relation to the Piarco 1 prosecution, they are contending that they were committed to stand trial and the offences for which they were committed for trial were alleged to have been committed on a date that is ten years or more before the date of their application.
In relation to the Piarco 2 prosecution, for which they are still before the magistrates’ courts, they say they are also entitled under the Act to an order that a verdict of not-guilty be recorded in their favour and that they be discharged.
According to their applications, the two necessary preconditions for an order under Section 34(3) (c) were met in that proceedings were instituted and the offences were alleged to have been committed more than ten years ago.
In an interview with Newsday on Tuesday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the court would have no basis to entertain any application filed as the section which gave a judge the power to hear and determine such applications would no longer exist once it has been repealed.