Businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson yesterday scored a major victory in their battle against extradition to the United States after the order was quashed by a High Court judge.Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh, presiding in the Port-of-Spain High Court, delivered his 57-page judgment at the end of the businessmen's judicial review application, challenging Attorney General Anand Ramlogan's decision to sign their extradition warrants on October 9, last year.In making the order, Boodoosingh said: "It is declared that it will be unjust, oppressive and unlawful to order the extradition of Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
"The extradition is debarred by the operation of Section 16 (3) of the Extradition Act." He said the appropriate forum to try the men in relation to contracts for construction of the terminal was T&T. He also ordered that the State pay the businessmen's legal costs, which included fees for two Queen's Counsel, a Senior Counsel and several senior attorneys. The men, former United National Congress (UNC) financiers, were wanted in Florida on a 95-count indictment, stemming from alleged misconduct in the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport terminal.
They also face local charges of bid-rigging and conspiracy to defraud the Government of T&T, which stemmed from two inquiries (Piarco 1 and 11) currently before the Port-of-Spain Magistrates' Court.In January 2007, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinued some of the charges, pursuant to the US extradition request.In quashing the extradition order, Boodoosingh suggested that the DPP might consider pursuing the charges which were previously discontinued. During the trial, Boodoosingh was asked to consider the location where the crimes were allegedly committed, location of evidence in the matters and in which country the alleged crimes had a greater impact on.
Representations made to Ramlogan, under Section 16 of the Extradition Act by the parties involved before he signed the warrants, also were considered by Boodoosingh."There is sufficient evidence before this court to hold that important representations were not disclosed to the claimants and they were therefore denied the opportunity to put their case on these matters before Ramlogan for his consideration," Boodoosingh said.
He said because of that there was unfairness to the businessmen, which was also a reason for quashing their extraditions.Galbaransingh, owner of the Northern Construction Group of Companies, is wanted on a 13-count indictment, including charges of money-laundering involving US$1 million (TT$6.3 million) during the period June 19 to December 10, 2001. Ferguson, former Maritime General CEO, is wanted on an 82-count indictment, including money-laundering charges, involving US$3,255,345 (TT$20,508,673) alleged to have occurred from November 24, 2000, to March 28, 2002.
As part of Boodoosingh's judgment, the conditions of the businessmen's bail were relaxed with the requirement of reporting to the Four Roads Police Station twice a week being removed.Despite pleas from the duo's legal team, the surety requirement of their continuing bail and the surrendering of travel documents were upheld by Boodoosingh.After spending almost ten months at the Maximum Security Prison in Golden Grove, Arouca, Boodoosingh granted the men $2 million bail each on March 30 with a surety that was later approved by the registrar of the Supreme Court.The men were represented by a legal team, which included Queen's Counsel Edward Fitzgerald and Andrew Mitchell, Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein and attorneys Rajiv Persad, Rishi Dass and Nyree Alfonso.
Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan and Kelvin Ramkisson represented the Attorney General, while Sunita Harrikisson represented the requesting state, the United States. After the judgment was delivered by Boodoosingh, Fitzgerald, who appeared for Ferguson, told the court both men always had expressed the view that T&T was the correct forum for their matters to be tried, not the US.The issue of forum was a major claim made by the men during their trial.
Sinanan asked the court to grant a 28-day stay of execution in the matter to allow the office of the Attorney General enough time to consider whether to appeal the decision.Sinanan's application for a stay of execution was granted by Boodoosingh.Attempts to contact AG Ramlogan for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.Both men are expected to reappear in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates' Court before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet on Friday when the "Piarco 11" preliminary inquiry continues.