Piarco Airport Inquiry
Defence bid to bar testimony rejected
BY INDARJIT SEURAJ
An application by defence lawyers in the Piarco Airport inquiry to prevent forensic accountant Raimundo Lopez Lima Levi from giving evidence has been turned down by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls.
McNicolls rejected the application yesterday, as the defence attorneys sought to prevent Levi from testifying against those facing corruption charges.
The defence had objected, on Wednesday, to Levi giving evidence. The lawyers had argued that Levi had been involved in the Piarco investigation, and could not give impartial testimony.
But McNicolls said yesterday: “The fact that an expert was part of an investigative team cannot preclude him from giving evidence and deeming it inadmissible.”
Lead prosecutor Edward Jenkins, QC, said there was no evidence of bias on the part of Levi.
Jenkins said the defence had not shown any evidence to prove that Levi was biased.
He cited forensic pathologists and firearm experts as experts who would be involved in investigations and then give evidence in court as well.
Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein had submitted, earlier, that there was no need for Levi’s testimony.
“The court should look at the cheques and drafts and come to some kind of conclusion on it,” he said.
“There is nothing inherent and technical about it,” he added.
He said Levi was part of a team headed by a judge whose only aim was to ensure that “these accused were prosecuted.”
The warrants issued by this judge were unlawful and unconstitutional, he said.
He added that Levi was part of the Lindquist team, and also worked with investigators.
“If this man is allowed to give evidence, we submit that justice would not be done,” attorney Vernon de Lima, SC, joined in.
Allan Alexander, SC, submitted that Levi’s evidence was inadmissible, since it did not amount to knowledge which was outside the working knowledge of the magistrate.
He added that there was nothing that Levi did which could be referred to as expert testimony to assist the court.
But in response to this, Jenkins said it was his duty to make understandable to the presiding magistrate the evidence they were leading, and not leave it up to the magistrate to try and understand for himself.
It was Levi’s job as an expert witness to help do this, he said.
Hearing continues today.
Former government ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Russell Huggins, Maritime executives Steve Ferguson, John Henry Smith and Barbara Gomes, Northern Construction Ltd executives Ishwar Galbaransingh and Amrith Maharaj and businesswoman Renee Pierre are also accused of conspiring to falsely convert more than $19 million under the airport project.
NCL, Maritime and Fidelity Finance and Leasing Co have also been charged.
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