Businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson have failed again to obtain bail, pending their extradition to Florida to face charges arising out of the construction of the Piarco Airport Terminal building. The latest application for bail was refused by Justice Malcolm Holdip in the Port-of-Spain First Criminal Court yesterday afternoon. In an oral decision in chamber court, Holdip said he had no jurisdiction to entertain the bail application. He said a similar application for bail was brought before Justice Vasheist Kokaram last month. Kokaram dismissed that application, leaving both men to remain at the Maximum Security Prison, Arouca.
In the second application, Holdip said he did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the matter and that no new circumstances had arisen to warrant the granting of bail. Yesterday's decision left relatives deflated. Galbaransingh's wife, Cheryl, and Ferguson's son, Andrew, left the Hall of Justice without saying a word. Galbaransingh and Ferguson were represented by Pamela Elder SC and Owen Hinds Jr, while Kelvin Ramkissoon appeared for the state. Lawyers and relatives were non-committal as to the next step, but the T&T Guardian was informed that another application would be made to the Court of Appeal for bail.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson, two financiers of the United National Congress (UNC), were arrested in Central Trinidad on June 15 – eight days after they lost their habeas corpus appeal before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
They are now challenging the constitutionality of the Extradition Act 1985. The final hearing takes place before Kokaram in the San Fernando High Court tomorrow. 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 persons 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, in a 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 Paul 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. Ferguson and Galbaransingh are appealing to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan not to send them to Florida as they have several matters in the local courts. They argued that they have already endured seven years of domestic criminal proceedings in respect of the same allegations made in the United States. They submitted they have endured hundreds of days of court hearings and substantial legal costs, stress, anxiety and loss of reputation. While this appeal has been submitted, Ramlogan has not yet made a decision.