Americans appear on corruption charges
$5M cash bail for Birk, Hillman
By Francis Joseph newsday.co.tt
AMERICAN businessmen Ronald Birk and Eduardo Hillman Waller Jr were released on $5 million cash bail when they appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
There were no conditions to Birk’s bail, but Hillman was not so lucky. Hillman can only travel between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. If he contravenes that condition, his bail can be revoked.
Birk and Hillman were each granted $2.5 million bail when they made separate appearances in court to answer seven charges each arising out of the Piarco Airport Terminal Development project investigations. They were charged with other persons with corruptly receiving more than $144 million in contracts between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 2001. Birk and Hillman were partners in Birk-Hillman Consultants.
Birk was the first accused to appear in court. He arrived in Trinidad on Sunday night and surrendered yesterday morning to the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB). He came to Trinidad on his own after he heard there was a warrant for his arrest.
Birk was escorted to the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court at 10.45 am. He appeared before Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim 45 minutes later. He was represented by Pamela Elder SC and Owen Hinds Jr.
The charges were not read to Birk after Elder informed the court that they had already been read on his surrender. She said her client waived his right to have the charges formally read in court. She then made her application for bail.
Elder said Birk was 64 years old, was a civil engineer living in Florida. She said apart from these charges, there were no others pending, he has an unblemished record, with no previous convictions.
Gilbert Peterson SC, who appeared for the prosecution, did not object to bail. He suggested a cash deposit of $2.5 million for bail and said Birk could enjoy all travelling privileges. Lee Kim agreed, and granted Birk $2.5 million bail and adjourned the case to September 15.
A Royal Bank draft for $2.5 million was later presented to the Clerk of the Peace and Birk was released in the custody of his attorneys.
Hillman was the next man to appear in court. He had been arrested on August 5 at Miami International Airport on a provisional warrant for his extradition as he was about to board a flight for Colombia. Five days later, he was released on US $250,000 bail after he agreed to come to Trinidad to fight his corruption charges. PC Krishenlal Nanan, of the ACIB, went to Miami on Sunday to escort Hillman yesterday.
But they did not leave Miami on time yesterday morning as the aircraft developed mechanical problems. Instead of arriving at 1.31 pm, the American Airlines flight landed at 3 pm. Hillman was whisked away to the ACIB where he was processed.
Hillman was then taken to court at 5.05 pm. But by that time, there were no magistrates. He appeared ten minutes later before Clerk of the Peace John Prince. No charges were read as this had already been done at the ACIB.
Elder and Hinds also appeared for Hillman. In applying for bail, Elder said Hillman was 69 years old and lived at Castile Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida. He was described as an airport consultant/architect with no previous convictions and matters pending before the courts.
Peterson did not object to bail, suggesting the same $2.5 million cash deposit. But he said there will be restricted travel arrangements for Hillman.
The prosecution, according to Peterson, recommended that the accused travel only between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
He said any travel outside of TT/US would amount to a breach of the agreement.
Prince granted Hillman bail in the sum of $2.5 million with a condition that he can only travel between TT and the US. Prince warned Hillman that any contravention of this condition could lead to his bail being revoked.
His case was also transferred to September 15. Birk and Hillman are charged jointly with 11 other persons on a total of 21 charges — Steve Ferguson, Ish Galbaransingh, Amrith Maharaj, Brian Kuei Tung, Sadiq Baksh, Ameer Edoo, Tyrone Gopee, Peter Cateau, Edward Bayley, Renee Pierre, and American Raul Gutierrez. Five companies have also been charged.
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