Five parties in the USA have pleaded guilty to wrongdoing
in the construction of the Piarco Airport project, Attorney
General John Jeremie revealed yesterday.
He made the shock disclosure while contributing to the debate
on the 2007 Budget in the Upper House.
The five are among two former government ministers and at
least six businessmen charged with conspiring to falsely convert
more than $19 million under the Piarco Airport project.
Jeremies revelation threw the Senate into upheaval with
Opposition membersparticularly Wade Mark and Tim Gopeesinghsaying
he was in breach of the Standing Orders.
The UNC senators outbursts also caused Senate vice president
Rawle Titus to rise to his feet on several occasions to bring
order to the debate.
Vice President, I have the distinct pleasure this afternoon
(yesterday) to bring some closure to this matter of fraud
in the construction of the Piarco Airport, Jeremie said,
as he prefaced his statement.
the Unites States versus Raul Gutierrez Jr, Eduardo Hillman-Waller,
Rene Diaz Dillegas, Richard Lacle and Calmaquip Engineering
Corporation, I have been advised by the assistant United States
attorney that each and every one of these accused persons
has agreed to plead guilty in the United States and, even
as we speak, are co-operating with law enforcement in T&T.
At this point, UNC senator Mark rose to his feet.
Vice President, we call on the Attorney General to withdraw
the statement, he said.
has indicated that this matter is before the court. No closure
has been brought to it. The matter is before the courts. Why
is he using his power in a matter that is sub judice.
Jeremie then responded:
I may, this is not a matter before
I said the United
States of America.
of all, it is not a matter before our courts and secondly,
I was announcing what the members should be happy about. It
is a fair agreement. If I plead guilty to a matter, it is
not before the courts.
Gopeesingh countered: I stand on a point of order, Mr
Vice President. The point is that he is referring to matters
before the local court and the international court.
names of Gutierrez and all the people from Calmaquip, they
are before this court and they are before the American court.
So, it is wrong for the honourable Attorney General, who himself
knows the law of T&T, and if he disrespects his own laws
something is very sad in the state of T&T, and this is
why we are seeing anarchy in Trinidad.
PNM senator Danny Montano then rose to the defence of Jeremie,
insisting the Standing Orders were clear on the issue.
Order 35 (2) says it very clearly, that no matter can be referred
to if it is before the courts in such a way as to prejudice
the interests of the parties
It does not say you cannot
refer to it, he said.
the Speaker must not do is to speak in such a way as to prejudice
the interests of the parties.
Titus again intervened, saying he had no clear knowledge of
the Standing Orders stipulation on the issue.
Standing Orders do not say that if the matter is before the
courts in T&T or in the international courts. It says
before the courts.
that case, I would like the Attorney General, now you have
told us the outcome of the matter, I would like you to proceed
please, he said.
Jeremie told the House that the people of T&T should be
happy that the parties had pleaded guilty.
pleas should be entered into in the next week because they
have not yet been heard, he said, adding that details
of the plea agreement could not be stated at this time.
As Mark rose to again interrupt, a visibly upset Titus said:
Honourable AG, could you please go on. You have reported
the outcome; I would like you to proceed please.
Jeremie vowed to say no more on the matter but to report
on the results of it.
He also expressed gratitude to US Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales, whom he said had provided steadfast leadership in
A US federal grand jury indicted eight people and two companies
in November 2005 on conspiracy and fraud charges. Among those
Raul J Gutierrez Jr, former president and director of
Calmaquip Engineering, accused of conspiracy, wire fraud,
bank fraud and money laundering.
Armando Paz, former chief financial officer of Calmaquip
and Gutierrezs uncle, accused of conspiracy, wire fraud,
bank fraud and money laundering.
Rene Diaz de Villegas, former vice president of finance
and Gutierrezs former brother-in-law, accused of conspiracy
and wire fraud.
Eduardo Hillman-Waller, a principal in Birk Hillman Consultants,
accused of conspiracy and wire fraud.
Richard Lacle of Aruba and Leonardo Arturo Mora-Rodriguez
of Miami, international business executives, face charges
of money laundering.
Two Trinidad executives, Steve Fergusonwho was
an undisclosed owner of Calmaquipand Ishwar Galbaransingh,
face wire-fraud and money-laundering charges.
Galbaransinghs Northern Construction was also indicted
on wire-fraud charges.