In this file photo, Attorney General Reginald Armour SC and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi greet the media at the Red House. –
RURAL Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi says Government is waiting for a response from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) about his decision to discontinue the Piarco 3 court matter.
Al-Rawi made this comment on Attorney General Reginald Armour’s behalf in response to a question from Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial in the Senate on Friday.
DPP Roger Gaspard discontinued the case against former prime minister Basdeo Panday, his wife Oma, former UNC government minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh on March 6.
On Friday, Al-Rawi said, “I wrote to the DPP on May 2, 2023, directing the specifics of this question to his attention.”
Gaspard, Al-Rawi said, acknowledged receipt of his letter on the same day.
Al-Rawi said Armour has recused himself from legal matters relating to the Piarco airport expansion project.
Armour had been a defence attorney for former government minister Brian Kuei Tung who is charged with criminal offences arising out of the $1.6 billion project.
Armour had recused himself from a legal matter in Miami related to he project due to a conflict of interest but after discussion with US lawyers in the case and was later disqualified by a Miami judge.
Al-Rawi was then appointed to take charge of that matter.
“As of this point, we have not received any response from the Office of the DPP.”
Al-Rawi said, “Pursuant to Section 90 of the Constitution, the DPP is the independent office with sole responsibility with respect to criminal matters of this nature.”
He added, “Therefore, it is incumbent on the Government to await the reply of the honourable DPP.”
Lutchmedial asked if Al-Rawi could indicated the cost to date incurred by the State in relation to the prosecution of the case and what steps are being taken to prevent loss of public funds owing to protracted prosecution by the State.
Al-Rawi told Lutchmedial that the different components of her question “are all contingent on the first part (the DPP’s reasons for discontinuing the case).”
He reminded senators that the DPP’s office have interacted with several AG’s over the last 22 years, including himself.
Al-Rawi said, “Whilst the State does undertake payments at the request of the Office of the DPP and in fact since we carved out the expenditure (for the DPP’s Office), there is a specific line item since 2017 (in the budget).”
Against this background, Al-Rawi said, “It is incumbent upon us to have a confirmation from the DPP with respect to who represented the DPP, across the span of 22 to 24 years.”
He added it would be irresponsible to provide an answer “based on lack of particulars comings from the Office of he DPP.”
Al-Rawi promised the information being sought by Lutchmedial would be provided once Government receives a reply from the DPP.
He agreed to a suggestion from Lutchmedial to provide the answers from the DPP in writing to the Senate.
Senate President Nigel De Freitas disallowed questions from Lutchmedial about the release of the Piarco Airport Commission of Enquiry report and other Piarco matters which are still before the court.
ABOUT THE CASE
In 2005, former prime minister Basdeo Panday and his wife Oma were charged with corruptly receiving money with respect to the Piarco expansion project under the former UNC government.
Former UNC government minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh were charged with corruptly giving £25,000 to the couple.
On March 6, DPP Roger Gaspard discontinued the case, telling the judge, “I have looked at these proceedings and I am of the view that having regard to the fact that several of our key witnesses have now become unavailable, and bearing in mind my lady, my guiding yardsticks, those being whether or not in the circumstances to prosecute this matter or in the prosecution of this matter there will be a fair prospect of conviction and whether to prosecute this matter, if on the evidence, there is a fair prospect of conviction such that prosecution will be in the public interest, I have decided to go no further with this matter.”
All of the charges against the Pandays, John and Galbaransingh were discontinued.
Attorney General Reginald Armour recused himself from legal matters relating to the Piarco airport expansion project due to a conflict of interest.
Former AG, Faris Al-Rawi took charge of the matter and on March 29, the court ruled in the Government’s favour.
Former UNC government minister Brian Kuei Tung, businessman Steve Ferguson and US-based businessman Raul Gutierrez were found liable for US$32,385,988 each in damages suffered by TT in relation to the project.
The State is yet to recoup any of the damages.