By ALEXANDER BRUZUAL Saturday, September 15 2012
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Accused: Businessman Ameer Edoo appeared at the Piarco II inquiry yesterday. ...
Hours after the Parliament passed the amendment to the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 for the removal of the controversial Section 34, businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson were among eight people who appeared before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet for the continuation of the Piarco II Airport fraud preliminary inquiry.
This was the first time Galbaransingh and Ferguson appeared in court since filing applications in the Port-of-Spain Assizes under the now repealed Section 34 of the 2011 Act, seeking their freedom from prosecution.
They immediately argued that it would be unjust for the magisterial proceedings to continue.
When the matter was initially called at the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, Queen’s Counsel Edward Fitzgerald, who is representing Ferguson, informed the magistrate that he had discussions with Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard and Special Prosecutor in the case Gilbert Peterson, SC, and the parties had reached a “measured agreement” about the correct procedural way forward on how they would be continuing in the matter in light of the controversy surrounding the 2011 Act.
He noted the defence had made an application in the High Court under Section 34 of the Act, however, he had been informed that the relevant section had since been amended and was waiting proclamation. (President George Maxwell Richards assented to the amended law at 11.47 am yesterday.)
Fitzgerald said that because of this, he was informed that such actions could purportedly prohibit the High Court from ruling on the application, and therefore, the defence may also be looking at the constitutionality of such actions.
Despite this, he briefly noted that Section 34 of the Act had been drafted by Parliament with the intention that it be directed towards “historic matters”, so that those matters, if the relevant conditions were met, would not proceed to trial.
He also emphasised since the proclamation of Section 34 on Independence Day, many people had made applications to the High Court to have their matters dismissed, not just the defendants in the Piarco II inquiry.
However, Espinet cut the Queen’s Counsel off at this point, saying the court was only concerned with the matter before it and nothing else.
Continuing his submissions, Fitzgerald said the defence intended to prepare submissions to argue for a stay of proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process based on the recent actions by the Parliament.
“We would seek to put before you submissions that state in light of recent events, it would be unjust for these defendants in this matter, for these proceedings to continue,” Fitzgerald said.
In a brief response, Peterson also agreed with his colleague that an adjournment was necessary given the recent events.
The matter is expected to resume on November 2.
Galbaransingh, Ferguson, 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 are charged with defrauding the people of Trinidad and Tobago in relation to the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport expansion project.