Ferguson to appeal Miami court’s US$100m judgment: DON’T COUNT THE MONEY, YET

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Steve Ferguson –

Businessman Steve Ferguson says he intends to appeal a ruling passed down by a Miami jury on Wednesday, in which he was found liable in a multi-million-dollar civil asset forfeiture claim in relation to the redevelopment of the Piarco International Airport, 22 years ago.

The Government began US litigation in 2004 when it sought to recoup US$37 million from those accused of corruption which included Ferguson, former Minister of Finance Brian Kuei Tung and US-based businessman Raul Gutierrez.

The State maintained that Ferguson, Kuei Tung and Gutierrez conspired with others to corrupt the bidding process on two construction packages and the maintenance contract for the airport.

On Wednesday, former Attorney General and corporate representative for TT in the matter Faris Al-Rawi, told Newsday the jury found the trio liable for US$32,385,988 each in damages suffered by TT.

Faris Al-Rawi –

Al-Rawi served as TT’s representative after a US appeals court affirmed the disqualification of Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC and Miami law firm Sequor Law from representing this country in February.

Their disqualification came after concerns of a conflict of interest arose as Armour once represented Kuei Tung in TT.

A motion to strike out the lawsuit and disqualify Armour and Sequor Law was also supported by Ferguson.

Speaking with Newsday on Thursday, Ferguson asserted that several elements of the case were prejudicial and confirmed that appellate attorneys have begun working on filing an appeal.

He also accused Al-Rawi of entering false statements during the trial.

Referring to issues that were raised when Kuei Tung was unable to attend a deposition owing to eye surgery on the same day, Ferguson said he was concerned his fellow defendant was not treated fairly.

“There are a whole host of things and other legal issues that were highly prejudicial.

“The jury instructions was that Mr Kuei Tung was guilty, how can you start a trial by saying someone is guilty?

“Brian Kuei Tung had eye surgery on the day of the deposition and the surgery was urgent, so he was unable to attend the deposition.

“The judge struck off his entire defence and considered him guilty and then gives the jury the directions that Mr Kuei Tung is guilty.

“It was obscenely ridiculous.”

Ferguson also claimed that the jury in the matter were able to arrive at a verdict in an hour and remarked that it often takes years to understand how contracts are awarded and what procedures were followed before a conclusion could be made.

Brian Kuei Tung –

On Wednesday, Al-Rawi said the State was entitled to prejudgment interest of at least US$25 million, but Ferguson contended that it was too early to make such remarks. He also said the final judgment will be in excess of US$100 million (TT$700 million).

“It is a real farce and our attorneys have already assured us that they will do it (appeal).

“You have to wait until you get the judgment which will take about two weeks and once you get the judgment you can file a notice of appeal within 30-days’ time.

“So Mr Al-Rawi in his pronouncements that he has US$25 million to collect is premature.”

Ferguson added that both he and his attorneys were confident they would be successful in their appeal.

Responding to Newsday’s questions via WhatsApp, Al-Rawi, who was still in Miami Thursday, said the State was prepared to address any legal challenges posed by Ferguson and Kuei Tung, if they arose.

“After 19 years of litigation in the US, the people of Trinidad and Tobago are the beneficiaries of an award which totals over TT$700 million.

“The process for the enforcement of the award interest and costs will be pursued by the State to ensure the delivery of the fruits of the judgment.

“The defendants will no doubt take such steps as they may be advised to pursue and the State will deal with such challenges, if any is advisable.”

The State was represented by a legal team from Miami law firm White & Case LLP which took over when Sequor Law was disqualified.

The matter was presided over by Miami-Dade Circuit judge Reemberto Diaz.