Miami judge to rule on final judgment against Piarco trio

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Brian Kuei Tung –

MIAMI-DADE Circuit Court judge Reemberto Diaz will give his final ruling  on Monday on the amount to be paid to the Government by former minister Brian Kuei Tung and businessmen Steve Ferguson and Raul Gutierrez Jr over criminal conduct linked to the construction of the Piarco Airport development project almost three decades ago.

This follows a hearing on Friday, when the judge was initially expected to give his ruling on Trinidad and Tobago’s motion for final judgment.

However, the judge heard arguments from attorneys representing Ferguson on why the final judgment is not appropriate and from Gutierrez, a Miami businessman, for a reduction of the sum being claimed.

On April 28, Diaz dismissed the motions by Kuei Tung and the others who challenged the multi-million-dollar verdicts against them in the Miami courts over their conduct linked to the project.

The three had asked for the jury’s verdict of March 29 to be set aside and for a new trial.

They were denied by Diaz, who also adjourned to May 12 TT’s motion for final judgment.

However, Ferguson’s attorney objected to the entry of TT’s proposed final judgment. His brief says he believes no final judgment is appropriate. He has also argued that given that TT has declined to produce evidence to substantiate setoff payments, any proposed final judgment would be without proper evidentiary foundation. The brief, argued before the judge, also said Ferguson identified three fundamental errors in the proposed final judgment.

Steve Ferguson –

He claimed TT received setoff payments doubling what it stated in the proposed final judgment, and the proposed final judgment included prejudgment interest when it should not. He also contends that the proposed final judgment includes trebling of damages when, according to the brief, TT “repeatedly told the jury that it only wants $32,385,988, and “not a penny more.”

“The jury took the RTT (Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) at its word and gave exactly what the RTT sought, $32,385,988. The RTT cannot now seek a judgment that substantially exceeds its repeated representation to the jury.”

Attorneys for TT had asked the judge to enter final judgment against the three of US$131,403,245.64.

Newsday was told once final judgment is given, the 30 days which the three have to appeal will begin to run from that date. They will have to post a bond for the full amount awarded by the jury, along with two years’ worth of interest, and the clock will start running once Diaz gives his ruling on Monday.

According to TT’s motion for final judgment, the US$97,157,964 represents treble damages of the jury’s verdict of US$32,385,988 against the three on March 29. The racketeering charges were filed under the US’s Racketeering and Influence Corruption Organisation Act (RICO).

While the bulk of the judgment is related to the jury’s award, TT is also asking for US$38,876,972.89, which constitutes prejudgment interest, minus the US$$4,631,691.25 set off from paid settlements and restitution by other defendants years ago.

TT’s attorneys White and Case filed an amended draft of the final judgment on April 17.

The State’s amended motion for the entry of the final judgment said the damages awarded by the jury “comprised…the amount of overcharges incurred by the Republic as a result of the defendants’ fraudulent scheme to overcharge the Republic for two construction contracts and a maintenance contract related to the Piarco International Airport project.”

The motion also said during the month-long jury trial, TT had established that its loss occurred on or before May 28, 2004.