ATTORNEYS representing businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson and six other men, charged with fraud-related offences arising out of the Piarco Development Project, have signalled their intention to argue that the proceedings should be stayed on the ground that it would be an abuse of process to continue.
When the preliminary enquiry resumed in the Port of Spain First Magistrate's Court yesterday, Ferguson's attorney, Edward Fitzgerald QC, who spoke on behalf of the defence team, asked Magistrate Ejenny Espinet to adjourn the matter to allow them time to file legal submissions for her consideration.
Fitzgerald said most of the accused have petitioned the High Court to have their matters dismissed under Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
"Since Parliament intervened to repeal the Section, it purported to prohibit the High Court from ruling on the applications," Fitzgerald said.
"The constitutionality will have to be looked at. We would seek to put before you (arguments) that it would be unjust to these defendants for these proceedings to continue."
He said the now repealed Section 34 of the Act sought to introduce a statute of limitations in criminal matters which have been pending for ten years or more. He said it would appear that Parliament intended to not proceed with "historic matters".
"Many people have made applications to the High Court (under Section 34). It is not just about Piarco 1 and 2. It is not just about Ishwar Galbaransingh (chairman of Northern Construction Ltd) and (former) Maritime Financial Group executive Steve Ferguson."
Fitzgerald asked Espinet to adjourn the matter to November 2 by which time submissions from the defence and prosecution would have been filed.
Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson, who is leading the prosecution on behalf of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, was also present in court, said the State, having discussed the matter with the defence team, agreed to accede to the request for an adjournment.
"This mainly because there is a pending application before the court," Peterson said.
"Those applications remain in the High Court but, before you, we wish for an opportunity to make submissions."
Also before Espinet are Northern Construction Ltd (NCL) financial director Amrith Maharaj, former government ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Sadiq Baksh, former chairmen of the Airports Authority Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo, and Peter Cateau, former client representative in the Ministry of Works at the airport project.
They are accused of conspiring between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2001, to obtain contracts and payments totalling $1.6 billion during the construction of the new airport.
Representing Galbaransingh and Maharaj are Andrew Mitchell QC, who was absent yesterday, and Rajiv Persad.
Also on record are attorneys Sophia Chote SC, Keith Scotland, and Asha Watkins, among others.