When looking back at the history of a country, one is able to pinpoint incidents that have permanently impacted on the country's development, changing not only the character of the country, but also of its people. In Trinidad, the 1990 coup was one. The rape and murder of Akiel Chambers was another, as was the assassination of former attorney general Selwyn Richardson. The airport scandal in a fourth. As you can see below, the saga continues…
More people facing airport scandal jail
As whistle-blowers make deals in US...
By Darren Bahaw
Courtesy the Trinidad Express
Tuesday, November 7th 2006
MORE PEOPLE, who benefited or were involved in the international criminal scheme to milk millions of dollars during the infamous Piarco Airport development project, may find themselves behind bars.
This development follows the latest in a string of plea arrangements yesterday hammered out by United States prosecutors and US defence attorneys, to convince key participants to squeal on other participants in exchange for less jail time.
Both police and state representatives travelled to Miami to seize the opportunity to interview the guilty co-conspirators in an effort to build stronger cases against several local businessmen, former government ministers and other officials currently before the local courts charged with stealing millions from the airport project.
Head of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau, Assistant Commissioner of Police Wellington Virgil, and head of the Central Authority Department, David West, were present for yesterday's court proceedings and later met with US prosecutors for lengthy discussions.
Two Americans, Raul Gutierrez Jr, 55, and Eduardo Hillman-Waller, 70, considered to be among the masterminds behind the complex criminal fraud, admitted their guilt yesterday before US Judge Paul Huck, at the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building, in downtown Miami.
Huck told both men that while he would take into account the recommendations of the US prosecutors and any assistance they would provide before their sentencing date, January 16, 2007, they could still receive higher sentences than those recommended.
They will now co-operate with four other men to testify against local businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who allegedly received million-dollar kickbacks in exchange for their political and economic influence in allegedly paving the way for the corrupt contracts to be approved.
Galbaransingh benefited from lucrative contracts during the airport construction and Ferguson, the former Maritime executive who allegedly facilitated the issuance of fake financial bonds to facilitate contractors, are wanted in the US to face similar charges.
They have filed a lawsuit in the local court challenging their extradition to the US and are also facing related fraud and corruption charges in the local courts.
Gutierrez, the president of Calmaquip Engineering Corporation, a Miami-based company which was awarded a hyper-inflated contract to supply specialty equipment-such as elevators, escalators, security systems, X-ray machines, loading bridges and public address systems -pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring between September 1996 and January 2001 to commit wire fraud and to transport money obtained by wire fraud. He also pleaded guilty, as Calmaquip's representative, to similar charges.
As a result of his plea agreement, the United States intends to discontinue all other charges against him and his company, and has recommended he be imprisoned for six and a half years.
In addition, Gutierrez will have to sell his home at Coral Gables in Florida, precious gems, jewelry, artwork and surrender funds in several banks accounts, all of which were derived as a result of his corrupt acts to help off-set a US$22.5 million (TT$138 million) judgment, owed to six American banks and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
He has also agreed to repay US$4 million to the Government while the American banks, some of which sent lawyers to observe yesterday's hearing, are seeking a total of US$18.5 million.
Hillman-Waller, one of the co-owner's of the now defunct Miami firm, Birk Hillman Consultants Inc, the firm that served as the main consultant for the construction of the airport project, admitted conspiring with others to commit wire fraud and transport money obtained by fraud.
US prosecutors have recommended that Hillman-Waller serve five years in jail and he has also voluntarily agreed to sell his home at Key Biscayne, Florida, to pay the Government US$2m.
Both men gave up their legal right to appeal and as a result of their felony convictions, they lose their rights to sit as juror, vote in an elections, hold public office and obtain a firearm licence.
They remain out on bail pending sentencing and US prosecutors agreed to remove the electronic monitoring device on Hillman-Waller.