Justice Vashiest Kokaram yesterday refused bail to businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, but ordered that they not be extradited to the United States until the outcome of their constitutional motion challenging the legality of the extradition proceedings. This means that Galbaransingh and Ferguson would have to remain behind bars at the Maximum Security Prison until the determination of their motion which is fixed for hearing at the Port-of-Spain High Court on June 24.
Minutes after the ruling, however, their attorney Fyad Hosein, SC, indicated his intention to appeal the judge's refusal to grant bail. The businessmen were arrested on Tuesday, days after the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council refused to grant them leave to challenge their extradition to the US to face 95 charges relating to the construction of the Piarco Airport Terminal building. They were not brought down from prison to attend their bail hearing yesterday. In giving his ruling in the San Fernando High Court, Kokaram said the court had to hold the scale of justice evenly between the claimants and the State.
He said the State, represented by attorneys Kelvin Ramkissoon and Michael Quamina, agreed that the court could exercise its discretion to grant bail in the matter but he wanted to adopt a cautious approach. He said he took into consideration, among other things, the seriousness of the offence, the severity of the penalty for such an offence and public interest in the matter. Hosein had argued that in order to make proper representation in challenging the validity of Section 16 of the Extradition Act, he needed ready access to his clients. He said their first deadline to make representation on that matter was next Monday.
He also argued that his clients were entitled to bail, were not a flight risk and had complied with the conditions of the previous bail. The judge said, however, that the personal inconvenience of attorneys was not sufficient to warrant the granting of bail at this stage. Ramkissoon argued that because of the advanced stage of the proceedings, the businessmen might become a flight risk. In granting Hosein's request for a conservatory order preventing the men's extradition to the US pending the outcome of the motion, the judge said the matter would be dealt with swiftly.
The motion hearing was initially set for July 22, but he brought it up to next Thursday. Kokaram said it would be wrong to extradite the men while the constitional motion was still pending. In the motion, they are contending that the proceedings are unjust and oppressive and infringe on their constitutional rights. Hosein, who was instructed by attorney Nyree Alfonso, also questioned who authorised the detention of his clients. He said that decision rests solely with the Attorney General and not with the Director of Public Prosecutions. "I don't know who authorised their detention, but that is a matter that is to be investigated," he said. Galbaransingh's wife Cheryl was present in court.