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Trinidad and Tobago Justice Minister fired over judicial procedure law

Trinidad and Tobago Justice Minister Herbert Philip Volney [official profile] was removed from office Thursday on allegations that he had deceived the country's government regarding a controversial law that established a new system of pre-trial proceedings relating to indictable offenses. Created by Volney's Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and passed by Parliament [official websites] in December, the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011 [text, PDF] introduced an entirely new pre-trial system for serious crimes, designed to reduce the pre-trial waiting time [MOJ backgrounder] from an average of six years to less than one. Section 34 of the Act, however, established a statute of limitation on crimes alleged to have been committed more than 10 years before criminal proceedings are commenced. Of particular current concern is the possibility of dismissal of the cases of businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who have been indicted in the US on corruption charges [Reuters report] related to the construction of a billion-dollar international airport in Trinidad. Their extradition was quashed on assurances that they would be tried in Trinidad and Tobago courts on similar charges. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar [official profile] now claims that Volney lied last year when he assured the cabinet that the proclamation of the Act had been approved by the country's Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Section 34 was repealed on September 14 by parliamentary amendment [text, PDF].

Corruption of public officials is an international concern. Earlier this week Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced that he will allow Switzerland to reopen corruption charges [JURIST report] against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. The corruption case is thought to involve approximately USD $60 million. Last week an Egyptian court sentenced former prime minister Ahmed Nazif to three years in prison [JURIST report] after finding him guilty of corruption charges including embezzlement of US$10.5 million while in office. Earlier that week President-elect of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto [campaign website, in Spanish] announced that he is proposing constitutional reforms that will increase government transparency [JURIST report]. Pena Nieto's electoral victory, confirmed [JURIST report] in July, has itself faced subsequent legal challenges, although each proved unsuccessful. Last month Mexico's Electoral Tribunal upheld the results after finding that there was no evidence that Pena Nieto violated election regulations [JURIST report].

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