The chairman of the murdered Maritime General is hailed as “greater than life”.
The murdered insurance manager John Henry Smith is remembered by his employer as an actor, playwright, musician, singer and mas man.
But Smith came into the country’s limelight for more shameful reasons more than 17 years ago when he was dragged to court along with UNC financiers, politicians and business people on a string of criminal charges arising from what is now the longest corruption case in history this country.
He died on $ 1 million bail and before being given the chance to stand his own case in his defense for crimes in which he and others were accused, nearly $ 1 billion out of the defamed 1.6 billion between 1995 and 2006 Stealing the billion dollar Piarco airport project.
Smith, 74, the chairman of Maritime General and Fidelity Finance, one of the companies also charged with fraud in the Piarco case, was found dead by police on Friday at his residence in Catalina Courts, Saddle Road, Maraval.
A police service statement said a 41-year-old woman is assisting the homicide squad in their investigation into what appears to be a domestic incident.
In a separate Maritime Financial Group statement released hours after Smith’s death, the company said it was “devastated” by news of its chairman’s death.
“John was a true patriarch and loyal companion to the Maritime family. He was an accountant, financial controller, marketing director, chief executive and chairman for nearly 50 years. Thanks to John, we at Maritime are what we are today. He was a fanatic of service who believes in people who have stayed true to time, but also someone who was bigger than life.Beyond business, John was an actor, playwright, musician, singer and “masman”.
The company quoted Smith’s mantra, “There is only one purpose in life and that is to enjoy life and enjoy life. It’s not money, it’s not power. It’s easy to have a good time, ”and said he lived by that philosophy.
Many of Smith’s co-defendants, including businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson, Amrith Maharaj, former Government Secretary Russell Huggins, Brian Kuei Tung, Sadiq Baksh, former Ameer Edoo Airport Authority Chairperson Tyrone Gopee, have aged significantly since their inception between 2004 and indicted in 2005 and appear to have overcome the numerous legal challenges that led to the dismissal of the charges.
Smith is the second defendant to die before the trial. Former Chairman of the National Insurance Property Development Company Edward Bayley died in 2006 after a lengthy illness.
The Piarco corruption case is involved in politics and was used by the ruling PNM on the political platform as one of the weapons that damaged the credibility of the Basdeo Panday government, which was elected for the first time between 1995 and 2000.
It was also one of the most expensive, apart from the corruption investigation of CL Financial, which is still ongoing, as numerous preliminary legal questions up to the Privy Council in London were negotiated mostly unsuccessfully.
By comparison, some of the alleged co-conspirators, such as Raul Gutierrez and Eduardo Hillman, have long served their sentences imposed by a federal court in Miami, Florida. Galbaransingh, owner of Northern Construction Limited, and Ferguson, former chairman of the Maritime Group, successfully challenged extradition orders to the US in 2011 on the grounds that the then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s approval was “unfair and depressing”.
In May 2018, Ejenny Espinet, the judge who led one of the related investigations with some of the defendants, including Henry, withdrew before making a final decision on the case, which was about to close.
This had a double effect as the matter had to be reopened or that the director of the prosecution would exercise his powers under Section 23 (8) of the Criminal Offenses Act (Preliminary Investigations) and bring charges against them even though the judicial process was on not yet finished.
Some of the defendants questioned the DPP’s decision to use the latter procedure and accused him of attempting to circumvent the admission procedure by bringing forward charges.
In November 2019, Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled in favor of the defendant and ordered the DPP that he could not lawfully exercise his power to prosecute as the preliminary investigation in Piarco 2 proceeded before the 15th under Section 23 (h) of the Act.
Rampersad also noted that “only after a new preliminary investigation has been established and conducted by a new judge can the accused lawfully be tried for the offenses first investigated by the PI”.
Attorneys involved in the case since it opened told Sunday Newsday that another attempt to try the defendant in the High Court has been challenged again by the defendants and preliminary legal motions have already been filed with additional deadline to file further arguments next month .
About the Piarco Airport case
The defendants include former government ministers, key financiers of the United National Congress and several other businessmen accused of conspiring to found ghost companies that raised millions of dollars from the airport authority for work carried out during the construction of the new airport Piarco did not pay the terminal, and the money won was then supposedly divided among themselves.
The charges were the culmination of a two and a half year investigation led by the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau and assisted by a team of forensic accountants led by Robert Lindquist. You have reportedly been able to track the movement of millions of dollars used to buy Florida real estate.
The defendants were jointly charged with conspiracy between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2001 to obtain contracts and payments totaling up to $ 1.6 billion in face value from the Piarco Project.
The charges accuse them of receiving corruptly unlawful payments of up to $ 144,048,858 to defraud the airport authority, Nipdec, the government, and the public by falsely pretending to be the obtaining of the contracts and payments were open, honest and competitive, although fraud was facilitated by the defendants themselves, who then held strategic positions overseeing the project.