Government files $2.6B suit in Florida

Government is seeking “compensatory damages” of more than TT $2.6 billion for the corrupt and illegal acts of the several accused in the Airport Inquiry. Attorney General (AG) John Jeremie filed the claim, which is being made under the US Rackeeter Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, to ensure the funds siphoned in the airport corruption did not escape because the period given under the Statute of Limitation (for taking legal action) expired. The claim was filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Florida on Tuesday and is aimed at establishing the culpability and the financial liability of all the individuals and companies in the matter. In a 73-page document, Government stated  it was bringing this “declaratory, compensatory and injunctive action — for violations of the Florida Civil Remedies for Criminal Practices Act; the Florida Anti-Fencing Act and for various fraudulent transfers — in order to hold all of the perpetrators of this vast international, criminal scheme liable.”

The document stated that the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was seeking  “compensatory damages of up to US $105 million, plus treble damages (which would amount to US $420 million) under its Florida RICO claim, along with interest, attorneys’ fees, and the costs of the action.” It is also seeking the imposition of a “constructive trust and injunctive relief” of the assets and other property, unlawfully obtained by the accused “with the proceeds of  their criminal scheme.” Under the RICO Act, any person who succeeds in establishing a civil RICO claim automatically receives judgment in the amount of three times their actual damages and is also awarded their costs and attorneys’ fees. Among the persons and companies named in the complaint are: Brian Kuei Tung; Ronald Birk; Maria Bubois; Rene Diaz de Villegas; Brigid Duncan; Steve Ferguson; Paul Gutierrez; Eduardo Hillman-Waller;  Birk Hillman Consulting Inc; Calmaquip Engineering Corporation; Argentum International Marketing Services; Avcom (a British Virgin Islands Corporation) and Jane and John Does.

Jane and John Does are metaphors for all those individuals who are culpable, but who cannot be named at this time because “the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago currently lacks specific facts to permit them to name such persons or entities as party defendants at this time.” Also named are three properties — one parcel of land at 57th Avenue in Miami, Florida (owned by Gutierrez); one parcel of land at 600 North Victoria Park Road in Ft Lauderdale, Florida (which belonged to Kuei Tung)  and one parcel of land at 7150 SW 98th Street in Miami, Florida ( purchased for Ferguson by Argentum). The document stated that the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was bringing this “racketeering action” against “the individual, corporate and in rem defendants for wrongful acts they and their co-conspirators committed in Florida, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Liechtenstein, and elsewhere, as part of a complex, international scheme to unlawfully obtain the award of over US $200 million in consulting, construction and maintenance contracts for the Piarco International Airport at hyper-inflated prices, through the use of bid-rigging, bribes to corrupt public officials, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.”

The AG is seeking claims on six Counts. Count 1- Florida RICO (Act); Count II- Fraudulent Transfer; Count III- Florida Anti-Fencing Act; Count IV - Recognition and Enforcement of the Trinidadian Restraining Order; Count V- Constructive Trust; Count VI- Injunction. Kuei Tung, Ferguson, Argentum and Gutierrez are the only defendants named in all the counts identified. In giving the “factual background” the document stated the defendants conspired to operate a criminal scheme in which millions were stolen and diverted through a “massive, complex and international enterprise operating in the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Liechtenstein and elsewhere.”


"Government files $2.6B suit in Florida"

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