Ferguson spends the night in jail
By Francis Joseph Newsday
Despite an unprecedented midnight sitting of the High Court, United National Congress (UNC) financier Steve Ferguson spent the night at the Port-of-Spain State Prison although he was granted $800,000 bail with a surety.
Ferguson, a former chairman of the National Gas Company (NGC), had been granted bail in the sum of $800,000 with two sureties when he appeared in court yesterday morning to answer one charge of conspiracy to launder $19 million. But there was a problem with the bail granted and therefore Ferguson was sent to the State Prison to spend the night.
Despite frantic attempts by his lawyers yesterday, Ferguson was taken in an Amalgamated Prison van to the Port-of-Spain State Prison. Last night, a battery of attorneys gathered at the law offices of Gillian Lucky on Edward Street as they searched for a judge to regularise the bail. Justice Stanley John convened a sitting close to midnight at the Hall of Justice. Ferguson's attorneys convinced the judge to regularise the bail. Instead of having two sureties of $400,000 each, Justice John granted one surety of $800,000. Bail was taken by Vijay Bhaggan, a director of DBF Investments Limited. Attorneys Reginald Armour and Rajiv Persad, accompanied by Justices of the Peace Ackbar Khan and Abrahim Ali, swooped down on the State Prison at 1.20 this morning, armed with the court order.
Armour informed the prison sentry through a hole in the gate that he was in possession of a court order granting bail to Ferguson, who was being kept in the Infirmary. But the sentry informed Armour that the prison was "locked down" and therefore no bail could be granted to any prisoner at that time. According to prison rules, no bail can be granted to any prisoner between 8 pm and 6 am.
It was the same thing 10 years ago when the prison authorities refused to accept a habeas corpus ruling from the High Court to release 114 members of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen involved in the 1990 insurrection.
The prison sentry this morning also refused to accept a copy of the court's order. He also said he needed permission from his superiors to give his name and regimental number. However, the officer never returned to the gate. The lawyers and JPs eventually left the prison at 1.40 this morning promising to return "as early as possible" to secure bail for the former Maritime boss.
Armour said the lawyers went before Justice John under Section 11 of the Bail Act which allows a judge to vary an order made by a magistrate imposing conditions on the grant of bail. He said the magistrate had granted two sureties meaning that there was need for two bailors.
"What the judge did tonight was to grant $800,000 with one surety, meaning one bailor. The judge's order replaced the order of the magistrate which meant that the Deputy Registrar was the one who had to approve the bail," Armour added.
The charge against Ferguson falls under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He became the seventh person to be charged arising out of the probe into the construction by the UNC of a new airport terminal at Piarco.
Director of Public Prosecutions Mark Mohammed SC gave instructions to Ag Snr Supt Maurice Piggott on Monday to lay the charge against Ferguson.
The Deputy Chief Magistrate Deborah Thomas-Felix read out the charge in court and stated "on days unknown between the 26th day of July 2000 and 21st day of December 2000, in the island of Trinidad having reasonable grounds to suspect that the sum of $19,735,875 being part of a larger sum of $28,898,720.65, represented the proceeds to the said Northern Construction Limited of a specified offence to wit that on the 27th day of July 2000, Ishwar Galbaransingh, Amrith Maharaj and NCL obtained by false pretences, and attempted to defraud from the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago the said sum of $19,735,875, and conspired together with other persons unknown to conspire to convert the said sum of $19 million dollars."
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