STANDOFF: US disappointed over decision not to appeal extradition of businessmen

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan earlier this week decided against appealing the ruling of High Court judge Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh, saying he was of the opinion that “the ends of justice” will be served by foregoing the appeal, and allowing the criminal prosecution currently before the local courts to proceed.

But in a statement Wednesday, the United States Embassy here described extradition as “a powerful tool in the fight against transnational crime.

“The Government of the United States and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago have had a bilateral extradition treaty in place since 1996. Our governments work together closely to extradite suspects to both countries. Though we are very disappointed in the outcome, we value our relationship with Trinidad and Tobago and will continue to work with the government on other extradition cases,” the release stated.

A United States grand jury returned the indictment against Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson on November 29, 2005.

Ferguson is wanted on an 82-count indictment, including charges of laundering US$3.2 million between the period November 24, 2000 and March 28, 2002, while Galbaransingh is wanted on a 13-count indictment, including charges of laundering US$1million between the period June 19, 2001 and December 10, 2001.

Charges against Galbaransingh and Ferguson in the local courts were discontinued, in favour of prosecution in the American courts.

In a statement released soon after the one by the US Embassy, Ramlogan reiterated that decision not to appeal remains intact.

“Trinidad and Tobago is an independent sovereign state with a written Constitution, laws and a legal system of its own and the AG is duty bound to respect and have regard to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Ramlogan said “of paramount importance is the question of where…the defendants are likely to be brought to justice in the quickest and shortest possible time.

“Not appealing means that the way is cleared for courts in Trinidad and Tobago to commence the trial of the defendants without further delay. It does not mean that the defendants will walk free without facing trial–a possible prospect if the State appealed. The Attorney General has every confidence in the ability of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to competently and fairly try these defendants and deliver justice according to law.

“Like the United States of America, the state of Trinidad and Tobago has also incurred great expense in this matter in which close to TT$100,000,000 (US$16.6 million) has been expended in time and money. “The defendants have exercised all their pre-trial legal options and the road is therefore now clear for the criminal justice system to get into high gear and commence their trial.”

On November 7, Justice Boodoosingh, quashed the Attorney General’s October 9, 2010, decision to sign the extradition warrants against Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson.

The judge in his ruling said the signing of the extradition warrant was “unjust and oppressive”.

Ramlogan said his decision not to appeal now paves the way for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard, to take the necessary steps to file indictments against the two businessmen in respect of the charges against them in relation to the airport project.

“Further, it is open to the DPP to consider again, in an independent exercise of his discretion whether to reinstate charges withdrawn in respect of conduct relating to CP 9 and CP 13 packages of the Airport Construction Project,” he said.

Gaspard told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) earlier this week that while he had no comment to make on the position adopted by the Attorney General “I am carefully and soberly weighing my options”.

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