Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson
ISH, STEVE WANT $76m
UNC financiers claim legal costs for judicial review
Asha Javeed firstname.lastname@example.org
UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson are seeking more than $76 million from the State.
The two businessmen, who have been before the country’s courts on fraud charges relating to the Piarco Airport construction project, filed their statement of costs to the Attorney General’s office on January 31.
Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh quashed Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s decision to extradite the businessmen to the United States on November 7 but ordered the State to pay the cost “to be assessed if not agreed” to the claimants for their judicial review hearing.
As such, Ferguson is seeking over $69 million, the majority of which is attributed to work done by Bruce Procope, QC, while Galbaransingh is seeking approximately $7 million according to their Bill of Costs.
Two weeks ago, the businessmen sought to take advantage of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, which was proclaimed on August 30 and allowed white collar crimes to be dismissed if cases had languished in the courts for over ten years. They had a window of opportunity to file papers in the courts to take advantage of the proclamation before the Parliament was convened to repeal the Act. Their applications are still before the courts.
The Sunday Express applied to the Registrar two weeks ago for a copy of the Statement of Costs submitted by the businessmen to the State.
The businessmen’s bills come from costly Queen’s Counsel including Procope, Andrew Mitchell, Edward Fitzgerald and Michael Beloff, multiple Senior Counsel, among them Fyard Hosein and attorneys who include Rishi Dass and Nyree Alfonso.
They are also claiming a total of $328,500 for prison visits from their attorneys and $622,547 for “photocopying and binding, travelling costs for Counsel and hotel accommodation”.
Yesterday, Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell SC, told the Sunday Express that no costs have yet been paid to the businessmen.
She said following receipt of the claim, Attorney General Ramlogan wanted to challenge it because he did not agree with their costs.
She observed that both men had filed separate claims but “what has been claimed is not what has or will be awarded”.
A decision, she said, has to be made by the court.
Donaldson-Honeywell said the State was seeking to offset the costs of the Galbaransingh and Ferguson claim with what they owed the State.
The Sunday Express also obtained the submission of the State which in turn is seeking over $15 million from the businessmen.
The State’s submission was filed on April 13.
Contacted on the matter AG Ramlogan yesterday denied rumours that he had paid millions of dollars in legal fees to both businessmen in respect of their successful case against the State.
“The claims were over grossly exaggerated and over-inflated. It is incredible that they would have paid those figures in legal fees for judicial review in the High Court. In the State’s experience, that figure is astronomical and without precedence,” he said by phone.
During the Section 34 controversy, the Sunday Express was told that the State had reimbursed significant sums of money spent by Galbaransingh and Ferguson in their legal matters.
But Ramlogan maintained that nothing was further from the truth.
He indicated that any money awarded to the businessmen by the court would be a drop in the bucket when compared to what they stated.
“There would obviously have to be an offset indicated,” he said.
Asked to estimate the State’s legal claim to the businessmen for its legal fees, Ramlogan indicated that the Solicitor General had estimated it at $15 million conservatively.
He pointed out that this figure did not take into account pending matters and work done at the Privy Council and said the claim could be as high as $25 million as the State retained an expensive British Queen’s Counsel in many of these cases.
“Not one red cent will be paid to these defendants under my watch because taxpayers have expended millions of dollars in defence of the State,” he said.
“It is clear that there is a smear campaign against me but I am very comfortable with my conduct with these matters. It is above board and can withstand public scrutiny. People seem to forget that I was the one who ordered their extradition to the US and objected to bail being granted as a result of which they were incarcerated for many months for the first time in the history of the endless legal battles against the State,” he explained.
Asked whether he thought the matter was linked to former justice minister Herbert Volney and the Section 34 fiasco, Ramlogan chuckled: “I find the timing to be somewhat curious and am amused but not perturbed.”