A High Court Judge has dismissed a constitutional motion filed by businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson in which they were challenging the constitutionality of the Extradition Act (1985).
This latest judgment means that the two men are one step closer to being extradited to the US to face a total of 95 criminal charges relating to the construction of Piarco Airport terminal building. The men filed the motion two years ago but it was only on June 14 that the case was called before Justice Vasheist Kokaram in the Port-of-Spain High Court. That motion came ended in the San Fernando Supreme Court on July 16. Douglas Mendes, SC, represented the Attorney General in the motion. Through their attorney, Fyard Hosein, SC, the men argued that the Extradition Act 1985, as amended by the Extradition Amendment Act No 12 of 2004, infringed their fundamental rights and liberties preserved under the constitution.
Yesterday, in his 24-page ruling, Kokaram, presiding in the Port-of-Spain High Court, said the act was not unconstitutional and it did not breach Galbaransingh and Ferguson's right to freedom of movement. Kokaram said: "The act does not infringe the claimants right to the protection of the law nor equality before the law." He added that the act was consistent with the achievement of substantial justice. Kokeram said he believed the system of extradition on the whole was fair. "There is no right recognised in the constitution as the right not be extradited," Kokeram added.
He said extradition was an acceptable restriction on the freedom of movement. He said Galbaransingh and Ferguson were neither banished or exiled from T&T but were surrendered to the US in an interactive process of criminal justice. Galbaransingh, chairman of Northern Construction Ltd, and Ferguson, former CEO of the Maritime General Insurance Co Ltd, are wanted in the US on charges of conspiracy to engage in money-laundering and bid-rigging, arising from the award of contracts in the Piarco Airport development project.
On May 4, 2006, a Florida State grand jury returned an indictment against them and six others. They were indicted on charges relating to corrupt practices in two of the construction packages in the project. The local Court of Appeal dismissed the extradition appeal of the men on May 3. Last month 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. The men have been in prison since June 15.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson were among eight persons charged in 2002 with corruption arising out of the same project. The preliminary inquiry, which began more than two years ago, is still in progress. More charges were laid in 2004 against 11 persons, including three Americans.