The Big Story
Last week was one of major drama in Trinidad and Tobago when nine very high profile persons appeared in the Magistrates Court on some 42 charges of corruption arising out of the contruction of the new and controversial Piarco Airport. Never before has so many high-profile persons been charged at the same time in Trinidad and Tobago. Those charged included former UNC Minister of Works and Transport, 53-year-old Sadiq Baksh. He was charged with corruptly obtaining $2,592,012.59 from Northern Construction Company for the UNC being the payment of a debt owed to Diversified Communications Ltd. He is also accused of conspiring with several persons to defraud the Airports Authority, NIPDEC, the Government and the public by falsely pretending that the process involved in obtaining contracts and payments in the $1.6 billion project was open, honest and competitive.
Also appearing on the charges were former Finance Minister under the UNC administration Brian Kuei Tung, and his companion Renee Pierre, former chairmen of the Airports Authority Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo, former chairman of the NIPDEC Edward Bayley, CEO of Northern Construction Ltd Ishwar Galbaransingh, former chairman of Maritime Group of Companies Steve Ferguson, and managing director of Northern Construction Ltd Amrith Maharaj. The eight persons were granted a total of $11.5 million in bail. Baksh who joined the others to make up the ninth accused got $1 million bail. All of them with the exception of Baksh appeared on Tuesday.
On Wednesday Baksh appeared to answer two charges. Kuei Tung was charged with five counts of corruptly receiving a total of TT$327,000 and US$498,000 as "gifts" from various companies contracted to conduct work on the Piarco Airport terminal. The offences allegedly occurred between October 1998 and August 2002. Kuei Tung, Pierre, Gopee, Edoo and Bayley appeared before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet at the Port-of-Spain First Magistrates’ Court charged with a total of 11 counts of corruption. Galbaransingh, Maharaj and Ferguson appeared before Magistrate Avason Quinlan on Tuesday afternoon at the City’s Four C Court charged with a total of 24 four counts of corruption.
The drama began on Monday evening when Kuei Tung, Pierre, Edoo and Gopee were held at the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau and, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Justice Prakash Moosai granted "conditional bail" in the sum of $1 million each to the four. However, the magistrate fixed Bayley’s bail in the sum of $2 million. Bayley, who was held early Tuesday morning at Piarco International Airport, was unable to secure bail, and was remanded into custody when he later appeared before Espinet. He was the only one handcuffed and ordered by the magistrate to report twice weekly to the Four Roads Police Station.
He was also ordered to surrender all travel documents to the court. When he appeared before Espinet, the prosecution objected to the bail, describing Bayley as a flight risk because he was a permanent resident of Costa Rica which has no extradition treaty with Trinidad and Tobago. He faces 11 fraud charges. When Kuei Tung, Pierre, Gopee and Edoo entered the courtroom via the public entrance, Espinet, not knowing that they had been granted "conditional bail," questioned why they did not enter through the door normally used by prisoners. Gillian Lucky, attorney for Ameer Edoo, explained that bail had been granted on instruction of the DPP.
Attorney representing the State, Gilbert Peterson SC, initially objected to Bayley’s bail, deeming the accused a "flight risk" and noting that he had recently obtained citizenship in Costa Rica. Peterson argued that there was no extradition treaty agreement between Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica, and, as a result, it would be a risk to grant the accused bail. Overlooking the objection, Espinet ordered Bayley to surrender his passport, and report to the Four Roads Police Station twice a week. Maharaj and Galbaransingh were each granted bail in the sum of $2 million while Ferguson was granted bail in the sum of $1.5 million. The three had earlier surrendered to the Anti Corruption Investigations Bureau on Richmond Street in Port-of-Spain. Kuei Tung and Pierre are both represented by attorneys Ian Brooks, Allan Alexander SC and Reggie Amour SC. Ameer Edoo was represented by Attorney Russell Martineau SC instructed by attorney Gillian Lucky.
Attorneys Stuart Young and Christopher Hamel Smith SC represented Bayley, while Gopee was represented by attorney Nyree Alfonso Towfeek. Representing the State are Deputy DPP Carla Brown Antoine and Peterson. Work on the Piarco International Airport started in 1997 and has been the subject of two inquiries, one conducted by Justice Lennox Deyalsingh and the second by former Chief Justice Clinton Bernard, which lasted several months. The charges stemmed from the findings of the Clinton Inquiry. All nine re-appeared in court on Thursday and the matter was adjourned to June 3. The State is also said to be putting together a high powered legal team to prosecute.
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