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Clause 34 puts strain on ties with US—Dumas
Trinidad and Tobago’s relationship with the United States already has been strained by the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011. That was the view of former head of the Public Service and ambassador Reginald Dumas. In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, he was responding to questions on the implications for US-T&T relations after the proclamation of the legislation.
After public outcry about the clause, which will see local charges against businessmen and United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson dismissed, the Parliament met yesterday in a bid to repeal the clause. Both men are wanted in the US on a series of fraud-related charges. They appealed the decision not to have them extradited and won. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan did not appeal the ruling since, he said, the men would face a “speedy trial in T&T.”
Dumas said the relationship between the US and T&T hadhave been affected. “It already has had an effect. They (US) have issued a statement and are not happy,” he added. Dumas said he could not estimate the extent of the US displeasure but such a clause ought not to have been added. If he were president, he said, questions would be raised as to why that particular clause needed to be proclaimed forthwith.
He said if he was not satisfied with the response by the Government representative, he would have spoken with his legal adviser before proclaiming it. Even if Parliament succeeded in repealing the clause retroactively, Dumas said, the businessmen would still have a constitutional case. “They can argue... ‘we did what we had to do and if you (Parliament) made a mistake, it’s not our fault,’” he said.
Dumas said despite the fact the men might not face trial in T&T, they were still wanted in the US and as a result of that, their travel overseas would be limited. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon agreed, saying the damage already had been done. “The US cited the facts of the case against the businessmen and also pointed out very clearly their disappointment,” she added.
The former minister said there existed a treaty between the US and T&T as pertained to extradition and by the law being passed the treaty was dishonoured. “The AG gave the assurance the matter will be heard locally and it is the view of the US that these men must be brought to justice. What the Government is doing is seeking to deny these persons appearing in court,” Gopee-Scoon said.
Pointing out the impact was not just with the US, Gopee-Scoon said the international community was closely monitoring T&T and cited Caricom and the United Kingdom as falling victims to “Government’s deceptiveness.” On Wednesday, the US Embassy expressed concern over reports local charges against Galbaransingh and Ferguson might be dropped.
The two were first indicted in 2005 in a Miami federal court on numerous fraud and money-laundering charges stemming from alleged bid-rigging between 1996 and 2005 on contracts for the Piarco International Airport. The embassy said it would continue to seek their extradition “despite the ruling last year by the Trinidad and Tobago High Court. They remain under indictment in the United States.
“Mr Galbaransingh and Mr Ferguson are acused of committing fraud involving millions of dollars. It would be highly disappointing if, after years of investigation, their case was not brought to trial,” the embassy added.
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