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Piarco 13 file to have charges struck out
Almost three weeks after the proclamation of the controversial Section 34 of the Adminstration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act, 26 people have applied to the High Court to have charges against them struck out. Lawyers representing several of the applicants appeared yesterday before judges in the Port-of-Spain High Court, after filing the applications last week.
Although the section was repealed last week during an emergency sitting of Parliament, the lawyers all signalled their intention to continue pursuing the applications, which were filed before the repeal. Section 34, which was proclaimed on August 31, allowed people who had not yet been tried on criminal charges dating back ten years or more to apply for their indictments to be dismissed and verdicts of not guilty to be recorded in their favour.
Among those who have filed applications are 13 people facing fraud charges arising out of the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport. They include business executives Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson; former CEO of the Maritime Group John Henry Smith; former Maritime group corporate secretary Barbara Gomes; financial director of Northern Construction Ltd Amrith Maharaj; former United National Congress government ministers Brian Kuei Tung, Carlos John and Sadiq Baksh; former PNM minister Russell Huggins; and former chairmen of the Airports Authority Ameer Edoo.
At the time, Rampersad was engaged in the pre-trial case management of two men who had also filed applications under the section. The two—Dane Lewis and Balram Seepersad—are facing charges of conspiracy to defraud and forgery with intent to defraud, alleged to have occurred between June 1 and July 31, 2000.
Ferguson’s attorneys, British Queen’s Counsel Edward Fitzgerald and Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, as well as Kuei Tung’s attorney Keith Scotland, asked for their clients’ applications to be heard alongside those of Lewis and Seepersad. Fitzgerald and Hosein made their representations on behalf of some of the accused in the Piarco 1 and 2 inquiries.
Rampersad told them he would communicate their suggestion to the High Court registrar, who would in turn decide whether the applications would be heard as a group. Simultaneously, attorneys representing two brothers jointly charged with robbery in the Sixth Criminal Court said they intended to pursue their applications. The brothers—Anderson and Sherwin Meharris, of Flanagin Town, Biche—were charged with robbing a man in December 2001, almost ten years and nine months ago.
The siblings were committed to stand trial in November 2006, with the matter appearing on the cause list before Justice Maria Wilson yesterday. Wilson instructed the brothers’ attorneys to file submissions on their application by October 9. The State was instructed to respond to the submissions before October 30. Wilson adjourned the matter to November 1. They were represented by Osbourne Charles, SC, and Richard Mason. The other applicants are expected to make representations to High Court judges in the next couple of weeks.
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