Businesswoman to stand trial

Businesswoman Renee Pierre was on Friday committed to stand trial on corruption charges in the decades old Piarco Airport development project court case. Pierre, 50, of Fondes Amandes, St Ann’s, was placed on $250,000 bail by Magistrate Sarah Da Silva who threw out a no-case submission before ruling that the prosecution had made out a prima facie case.

In the no-case submission, Pierre’s attorney Keith Scotland’s main argument was there was no evidence of her committing an offence as claimed by the prosecution. Da Silva overruled it, but did agree to Scotland’s bail application since there was no objection by special prosecutor Elaine Greene. Pierre’s husband, Anthony Williams, will stand as surety for her bail.

After being committed, Pierre was given the option to provide alibi evidence, call witnesses or testify in her defence. She said she had no alibi and opted to remain silent and call no witnesses.

It is alleged that sometime between August 26 and August 31, 1999, Pierre received from Northern Construction Ltd (NCL) $150,000, in the payment of a visa credit card account in the name of Brian Kuei Tung. Kuei Tung was said to be an agent favouring the interest of NCL in relation to the Piarco airport terminal development project, a matter in which the Airports Authority was concerned.

The second charge against her is that she received from NCL, a reward of $50,000, namely in the RBTT account in the name of Kuei Tung also in relation to favouring NCL on the project while a third charge is that she received from NCL, $80,000, namely in the account of Brian and Ellen Kuei Tung in relation to favouring NCL.

Pierre was one of eight people, including former government ministers and party financiers for the United National Congress, charged back in 2004, in connection with the airport corruption case.

In 2005, the original charges against Pierre were dropped and reinstated with new charges which led to her case being separated from the Piarco 1 and 2 corruption inquiries. Those in the first corruption case were committed to stand trial while seven others in the second corruption case were successful in a legal challenge, last year, and a judge ordered that their inquiry start over.

They had challenged the decision of the DPP to exercise his power under section 23(8) of the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Inquiry) Act and file an indictment against them although the magisterial proceedings had not yet come to an end. The DPP was also accused of attempting to circumvent the committal process by preferring an indictment. The effect of the ruling of Justice Devindra Rampersad in the matter was that the Piarco 2 inquiry would have to be restarted because the magistrate who was hearing it, Ejenny Espinet, retired before it came to an end.

Late last year, DPP Roger Gaspard told Newsday he was still considering his options on that matter.

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