Government scored a multi-million dollar victory in a Miami court on Wednesday, in the Piarco Airport terminal building scandal.
After almost 20 years, a Miami jury found the three defendants—T&T businessman Steve Ferguson, former minister Brian Kuei Tung and US businessman Raul Gutierrez Jr—were liable for US$32,385,988 in damages suffered by T&T.
Ferguson was found liable for multiple claims arising from the fraud perpetrated in connection with the redevelopment of the Piarco International Airport.
The win came following the case’s conclusion in the Miami Dade Circuit Court, where Judge Reemberto Diaz presided over an announcement of the verdict around 6 pm.
The jury in the matter concluded that the three defendants were liable and the court granted the racketeering claims made by T&T, which trebled damages.
Former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi, who was in Florida since early March as T&T’s corporate representative in the case, confirmed the outcome yesterday.
He told local media: “This is a victory for the people of T&T…”
The longstanding effort by Government had been an attempt to recoup approximately US$37 million from alleged racketeering charges in the Piarco development project filed under the US’s Racketeering and Influence Corruption Organisation Act (RICO). Government had also sought to get triple the amount in damages.
Al-Rawi in a GML report said, “The jury found by clear and convincing evidence that Ferguson had violated Florida’s RICO statutes, and was also liable for fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. The jury further found that the defendants caused over US$32 million in damages to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He added, “The net effect of the verdict is that the State is the beneficiary of the trebling of damages automatically and is also entitled to prejudgment interest of at least US$25 million. Final judgment will be well in excess of US$100 million.”
The State alleged that defendants Ferguson, Kuei Tung and Gutierrez Jr had conspired with others to corrupt the bidding process on two construction packages, as well as the maintenance contract for the Piarco International Airport.
After approximately two hours’ deliberation yesterday, a jury, comprising six residents of Miami-Dade County, found Ferguson liable for multiple claims arising from fraud perpetrated in connection with the redevelopment of the Piarco International Airport in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The court earlier found that defendants Kuei Tung and Gutierrez Jr, the former principal of Calmaquip Engineering Corporation—which provided the specialised equipment at the airport—were liable. Calmaquip was formerly headquartered in Miami.