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Volney: Blame the State

As preliminary inquiries scrapped
Published: 
Sunday, September 9, 2012
ISHWAR GALBARANSINGH

James Lewis, QC, upset
On December 19 last year, Ramlogan in a media release said he came to the view that “the ends of justice” will be served by foregoing the appeal, and allowing the criminal prosecution currently before the local courts to proceed. Ramlogan said he was basing his decision on the advice given to him by Queen’s Counsel James Lewis. However, sources say the advice provided by Lewis was misinterpreted and not an accurate reflection of the legal advice given.

 

Sources close to Lewis further say that shortly after Ramlogan’s December 19 announcement (to not appeal the decision of Boodoosingh that the businessmen be tried in T&T, based on the advice of Lewis), correspondence was sent from Lewis to Ramlogan, with Lewis expressing concern about the way his advice was misconstrued.

 

Sources say Lewis, who has in the past been retained by then attorney general John Jeremie under the PNM administration, was “taken by surprise over the announcement, since the advice given by him was not thoroughly reflected” in the statement issued by Ramlogan on December 19. Attempts to obtain a copy of Lewis’ advice from the Office of the AG were unsuccessful. Sources said due to Lewis being retained by Ramlogan he could not comment on the matter due to attorney-client confidentiality.

 

During a post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on December 29 last year, Ramlogan maintained that he made his decision based on advice from Lewis. Ramlogan explained that had he challenged  Boodoosingh’s order, and Galbaransingh and Ferguson  were extradited to the United States to stand trial, it was possible that it would take between eight and ten years for their matter to be heard. He said given that the alleged offences took place over a decade ago, and should an appeal take place, a time frame of three to five years could be added.

 

Ramlogan said it was based on these issues he chose not to appeal the extradition and his decision “cleared the way for the trial (local) to take place in the quickest possible time frame.”

 

The AG, Volney responds
Contacted at 9.30 am by telephone yesterday and asked to comment about the implications of the act on the Piarco matters, Ramlogan said he was in Jamaica attending a Caricom seminar. The AG then directed all questions to Justice Minister Herbert Volney. “The best person to speak with is the Justice Minister, since he is the one who piloted the act.” Ramlogan was then reminded by this reporter that the local charges against the businessmen were his reasons for not contesting their extradition—the last time being December 2011.

 

The AG did not respond.
Ramlogan was then asked whether he was consulted in the decision-making process since part of his duties as AG would include advising Cabinet on legal matters, given that he in his capacity as AG told the country as well as US officials that the businessmen will face justice in the local courts. The phone connection broke. Efforts to contact Ramlogan again were unsuccessful.

 

Volney: People with charges over ten years will benefit
When Sunday Guardian contacted Volney yesterday, he said the implementation of the Act “is not personal to anyone. “Anyone who endures charges over ten years will benefit with the exclusion of those who committed blood crimes (rape, murder etc.)” Volney said the initiative was a Government one and Ramlogan who acts as the “chief Legal” was adviser to the initiative which came from his ministry.

 

Referring to the cases including that of the Piarco fraud inquiry which will be dismissed as "dead wood” cases, Volney said due to the lengthy delays of the State getting its house in order for several matters, inclusive of the Piarco preliminary inquiry, blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the State for the matters going beyond ten years.

 

“At the end of the day, the State has a duty to prosecute people in reasonable time. The Privy Council gave a five year time-frame for convicted killers to have their matters dealt with...this is ten years we are talking about." Volney further said despite the State having its limited resources this should be no excuse for lengthy adjournments which is further exasperated by “the hiring of foreign counsel who are only available two to three times a year.”

 

Asked whether such a statement was fair, since at several Piarco hearings the accused through its defence were the ones delaying the commencement of the case, Volney said despite this, the State had a responsibility to ensure matters were heard in a timely basis.

 

 

What the Act States
Indictable matters will now go to a Master of the High Court by way of paper committal, where all the evidence and supporting documents will be filed in the Registry of the Supreme Court. Section 34 of the Act, which addresses “discharge on the grounds of delay,” states: “(1) Where proceedings are instituted on or after the coming into force of this Act and the Master is not, within twelve months after the proceedings are instituted, in a position to order that the accused be put on trial, the Master shall discharge the accused and a verdict of not guilty shall be recorded, except—
a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6; or
(b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court.
“After the expiration of ten years from the date on which an offence is alleged to have been committed:
(c) no proceedings shall be instituted for that offence; or
(d) no trial shall commence in respect of that offence except,
(a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6;
or (b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court,
where—(c) proceedings have been instituted;
(d) an accused is committed to stand trial; or
(e) an order is made to put an accused on trial, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, a judge shall, on an application by the accused, discharge the accused and record a verdict of not guilty if the offence is alleged to have been committed on a date that is ten years or more before the date of the application.”

 

 

The Charges

CARLOS JOHN and ISHWAR GALBARANSINGH:
On or about December 24, 1998, in the island of Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere, being an agent, did corruptly give the sum of 25,000 pounds sterling to Basdeo Panday, an agent, as an inducement or reward for the said Basdeo Panday favouring or forbearing to disfavour the interest of Northern Construction Ltd in relation to its principal business, namely Construction Package 3 at the new terminal development project at Piarco Airport, a matter in which a public body, namely the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago was concerned, contrary to Section 4 (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act Number 11 of 1987.

 

BASDEO PANDAY and OMA PANDAY:
On December  30, 1998, did corruptly receive from Carlos John and Ishwar Galbaransingh the sum of 25,000 pounds sterling as an inducement or reward in relation to Construction Package 3 of the new terminal development project at Piarco Airport, a matter in which a public body, namely the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago was concerned, contrary to Section 4 (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act Number 11 of 1987.
 

THE CHARGES (March 23,2001)

BRIAN KUEI TUNG, former Finance Minister—(four counts) misbehaviour in public office; (five counts) corruption; (one count) conspiracy to defraud the TT Govt of $7M.

 

RUSSEL ORLANDO HUGGINS, former National Security Minister—(two counts) corruption; (three counts) aiding and abetting to commit misbehaviour in public office; (one count) misbehaviour in public office; (one count) money laundering.

 

ISHWAR GALBARANSINGH, businessman and UNC financier—(one count) money laundering; (two counts) corruption; (four counts) aiding and abetting to commit misbehaviour in public office; (one count) conspiracy to defraud TT Govt of $7M.

 

JOHN HENRY SMITH, CEO Maritime Group of Companies—(three counts) aiding and abetting to commit misbehaviour in public office; (two counts) corruption; (one count) conspiracy to defraud TT Govt of $7M; (one count) misbehaviour in public office; (one count) money laundering .

 

RENEE PIERRE, companion of Brian Kuei Tung—(one count) aiding and abetting to commit misbehaviour in public office; (one count) conspiracy to defraud TT Government of $7M; (two counts) corruption.

 

AMRITH MAHARAJ, Chief Corporate Secretary Northern Construction—(four counts) aiding and abetting Brian Kuei Tung to commit misbehaviour in public office; (one count) money laundering; (two counts) corruption; (one count) conspiracy to defraud TT Govt of $7M.