The cases of Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, both wanted for trial in the United States on corruption charges stemming from the Piarco Airport construction contracts, have dragged on interminably through the local courts. Alleged co-conspirators, Messrs Birk and Hillman, both United States citizens, have had their respective cases completed in America, where they pleaded guilty and are now serving their sentences.
Galbaransigh was the main contractor, and Steve Ferguson’s company the financier for the Piarco Airport Terminal Building, constructed during the UNC administration 1995-2001. Two Commissions of Inquiry, and several court trials later, have failed to bring closure to the issues surrounding the tendering and construction of this building.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson have been fighting extradition to the United States, where they face charges of fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Co- conspirator named in the charges, Birk, has already been tried overseas, and is now a witness against Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson have made several judicial committee of the Privy council appeals against their extradition. And while even the House of Lords had cleared the way initially, subsequent appeals have seen stays of the extradition order, and they both remain free on bail in Trinidad awaiting closure of this part of the matter.
However, following the election victory of the Peoples’ Partnership last week, attorneys for Galbaransingh and Ferguson made public the fact that they had written to new AG Anand Ramlogan requesting that he deny the long outstanding extradition request from the United States.
We must now all remember that Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson and others were considered to be the financiers and masterminds behind the UNC 1995 election victory. In his victory speech back then, Basdeo Panday publicly thanked them for their inputs. When the Piarco Airport Contracts were awarded in 1997 to Galbaransingh’s Northern Construction, financed by Ferguson’s Maritime Finance, questions were raised about the tendering and award procedures, and these eventually led to the current trials of these two men.
While we support the right and indeed the duty of an attorney to do all that they can before the courts to have their client’s discharged, we must wonder at the motive behind making the letter to Mr Ramlogan public, even before the new AG has seen it. Was this an attempt to garner some hierarchal sympathy from the earlier beneficiaries of the accused? Did they hope some cabinet pressure might be brought to bear on Mr Ramlogan to “ease- up” the accused?
When asked to comment, Mr Ramlogan said: “I saw it on the newspaper and I have to be briefed on that. That is a matter that will engage my attention in due course.” We certainly hope that “due course” occurs sooner rather than later, and that Mr Ramlogan, and indeed the whole of the new cabinet, quietly decline to intervene in this matter.
Former friends or financiers notwithstanding, if this government steps in to prevent an extradition request which has been through the court system, they may as well put the Uff Report in an envelope and hide it away. These men continue to proclaim their innocence. Let them have their day in court without our government thwarting any trial.