Two UNC financiers, Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, lost their final battle yesterday to avoid extradition to Miami, where they face a total of 95 charges relating to the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco Airport Terminal building. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London refused to grant leave to the two businessmen to appeal the matter to the British Law Lords.
Attorneys for both men, Geoffrey Robertson, QC and Edward Fitzgerald, QC, as well as James Lewis, QC, for the State, had filed written submissions with the Privy Council last month after the local Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by the two men challenging their extradition. The Law Lords–Browne, Mance and Collins– indicated that they would study the written submissions, and if need be, they would summon the parties to hear oral arguments. But the Privy Council never summoned the lawyers for oral arguments.
Yesterday, the Law Lords indicated that leave was refused and that the order of the court would be entered shortly. The Privy Council Registrar's office has confirmed the decision of the Law Lords. That means that the four-year battle by Galbaransingh and Ferguson has come to an end. All that is left now is for the new Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, to sign the warrant of surrender, for both men to be taken by US marshals to Miami to be arraigned before Florida judge, Paul Huck.
Up to last night, Ramlogan had not yet signed the warrant as the US marshals office in Florida said it had received no request to come to Trinidad. Both Ferguson and Galbaransingh had been on $1 million bail since their arrest in 2006. In an unprecedented move, Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls granted bail in an extradition case, when in all other similar cases, the wanted people were all kept in prison. On May 3, the local Court of Appeal, by a 2-1 majority, ruled that Ferguson and Galbaransingh be extradited.
Justices Humphrey Stollmeyer and Gregory Smith, a in 59-page judgment, ruled against Ferguson and Galbaransingh, while Justice Rajendra Narine dissented in a 62-page judgment. They were granted a 72-hour stay in which time they would go before the Privy Council. Galbaransingh and Ferguson had appealed the decision of Justice Charmaine Pemberton who refused to grant them a writ of habeas corpus. On May 4, 2006, a grand jury in Florida, returned an indictment against Galbaransingh, Ferguson and six others in relation to corrupt practices concerning two packages for the construction of the airport terminal building.
Months later, six Americans pleaded guilty before Judge Huck in the Miami Federal Court, and were sentenced to terms between six months and six years. The case against Galbaransingh and Ferguson is still pending. In Trinidad, Ferguson and Galbaransingh were among several former public officials who were charged in 2002 with various offences, including conspiracy to defraud the Government of T&T, arising out of the construction of the Piarco Airport Terminal building.
One preliminary inquiry lasted nearly six years, and the second is nearing completion in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates' Court. Another inquiry involving Galbaransingh, businessman Carlos John, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and his wife Oma, is still before the Magistrates' Court. In their submissions to the Privy Council, Ferguson and Galbaransingh argued that they had already endured seven years of domestic criminal proceedings in respect of the same allegations made in the United States. They submitted that they had endured hundreds of days of court hearings and substantial legal costs, stress, anxiety and loss of reputation.
They argued further that the Court of Appeal was wrong when it refused to accept fresh evidence from them. They complained that the Appeal Court wrongly found that the offence of bid-rigging alleged in the US case was accompanied by sufficient aggravating features to constitute an extradition crime. Ferguson and Galbaransingh submitted that the Appeal Court was wrong to say that there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the requirement of a prima facie case. Although the State said that the businessmen had no right of appeal to London, Ferguson and Galbaransingh insisted that they had.