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Contractor queries search warrant

Published: 
Saturday, August 12, 2017
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Attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.

DEREK ACHONG

A contracting firm has been given the green light to challenge the decision of acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle to grant police a warrant to search its offices as part of an ongoing probe into the Estate and Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).

Lawyers representing TN Ramnauth & Company were yesterday granted leave to pursue their judicial review claim during a hearing before Justice Joan Charles in the Port-of-Spain High Court.

Presenting submissions on the company’s behalf Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said his client was challenging the basis used by Busby-Earle-Caddle to grant the warrant to detectives of the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB).

Maharaj claimed that when the company’s offices were raided in late June in connection with a multi-million dollar contract granted to it by the EMBD under the People’s Partnership tenure, the officers did not present the search warrant that was granted by Busby-Earle-Caddle.

He stated that after the incident, he wrote to the acting chief magistrate to obtain her reasons for granting the warrant but she failed to respond.

“The contract was awarded by a tender process and there can be no reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity,” Maharaj said.

While he admitted that Busby-Earle-Caddle would not have been able to reveal all the evidence presented to her by investigators, she should have given basic information.

“You may not give all the information but at least some edited information,” Maharaj said.

The application for leave was unopposed by Roshan Ramcharitar for the Office of the Solicitor General, which is representing Busby-Earle-Caddle. However, Gilbert Peterson, SC, who represented the T&T Police Service said his client intended to apply to be made an interested party in the case.

Charles gave the date for the filing of evidence and submissions in the case and said a case management conference will be held in the new law term in mid-September.

The company was also represented by Jagdeo Singh, Keil Tacklalsingh and Criston Williams.

The EMDB is a Government-run limited liability company, established in 2002 with the responsibility to assist in the development and management of State land.

The operations of the company were put on hold due to allegations of impropriety in the award of contracts shortly after the 2015 general elections.

In April EMBD board members who appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Enterprise Committee (PAEC) were criticised for failing to disclose the company’s annual financial audited reports for 2011 to 2015. Several forensic audits have been since been undertaken in addition to the police probe. The company formerly fell under the control of the Ministry of Housing but has since been transferred to the Agriculture Ministry.

The company is one of five that were raided by officers from the ACIB in late June.