Basdeo Panday Guilty As Charged

Staff Article
April 25, 2006

Basdeo panday on his way to the courtAlthough a somber day for some, others celebrated when Basdeo Panday, the former Prime Minister, and Opposition leader of Trinidad and Tobago was found guilty yesterday on all three counts of failing to declare a London Bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, which was a violation of Section 27 (1) (b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act of 1987.

Mr. Panday received a sentence of six years imprisonment; two years for every count which are to run concurrently. Lead defense attorney Desmond Allum insisted that the court take into account that Mr. Panday was not brought up on corruption charges but rather on his failure to declare his assets. He also asked the court to take note of Mr. Panday’s “impeccable character” and that his public service be considered when determining the judgment. Despite lead defense attorney Desmond Allum’s plea for bail and for a reduction in sentence to community service, these were denied by the court, but not before Allum gave notice of their intention to appeal the decision of imprisonment which would be taken to a judge in chambers on Friday.

In this regard, the former Prime Minister would spend the next few days behind bars at the Maximum Security Prison, Golden Grove until his lawyers can secure his bail.

In addition to his imprisonment, Panday was fined $60,000 ($20,000 for each count), failure of which, he would serve an additional sentence of three years hard labour.

Moreover, Mr. Panday was ordered to pay the state about TT$1.6 million by way of forfeiture, representing the money Mr. Panday failed to declare to the Integrity Commission.

This verdict was handed down by Magistrate Sherman McNicolls at the Port-of-Spain Eight Magistrates Court at about 10.30 Monday morning.

This verdict may affect Panday’s political career in that, and in the words of Professor John La Guerre, his de facto leadership would have to be re-examined. Professor La Guerre also stressed that it could act as a fetter to the development of the UNC.

Some have cried injustice and even called for a Presidential pardon for Mr. Panday because of his long-standing service as a trade unionist, and his service as the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader of Trinidad and Tobago. Only time would tell if such sympathies are felt by the highest powers of the land and could translate into a pardon.

Furthermore, Mr. Panday’s incarceration has put the stability of the UNC into further question. Mr. Panday, despite this controversy, is regarded by many as the backbone of the UNC, and as such, the end of Mr. Panday’s leadership may mean to some the end of the party.

According to the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, Section 49 2D and 3 deals with the Tenure of Office of Members. It states that a member of Parliament has to be disqualified if he or she is under sentence of death imposed on him by a court or is serving a sentence of imprisonment exceeding 12 months or substituted by competent authority for some other offence or is under such a sentence of imprisonment, the execution of which has been suspended. However, if the court’s decision is being appealed with or without the leave of the court or other authority, the Member shall not vacate his seat until the expiration of 30 days, which means he will not lose his seat but he cannot function as an MP.

Last night, an executive meeting of the UNC was held at the Rienzi Complex in Couva to attempt to determine the fate of the party among other things such as the possible appointment of a new political leader.

It is the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago that a former Prime Minister has been found guilty and sentenced for a breach of the law.

One thought on “Basdeo Panday Guilty As Charged”

  1. No Bail for Basdeo Panday Today

    Staff Article
    April 25, 2006

    Lawyers for convicted Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday were at the Port-of-Spain High Court today, attempting to get bail for Mr. Panday while they appeal the decision handed down yesterday by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls. The incarcerated former Prime Minister has not been granted bail.

    McNicolls found former Prime Minister Mr. Panday guilty on all three counts of failing to declare a London bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, 1987.

    Yesterday, Mr. Basdeo Panday was taken to the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, Trinidad, after being sentenced to a term of two years imprisonment with hard labour.

    In the application for bail which was held ‘In Camera’, Justice Anthony Camona said that he needed to have some substantial evidence as well as skeletal evidence and transcripts of the matter before he could deal with the bail application. The application was heard at 11 am today and lasted just about 20 minutes in the High Court at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain. Mr. Panday was represented by Mr. Desmond Allum, Mr. Fyard Hosein, and Mr Rajiv Persad.

    The State, represented by Queens Council Sir Timothy Cassel, did not object to bail because they felt that the matter was in the hands of the High Court. Justice Camona stated that he could not give a ruling right away and the matter has been postponed to Thursday, 27th April at 11:30am. However, the Judge stated that the hearing was mainly for substantive arguments to be made. This means that there is no guarantee that the court will be granting bail to Mr. Panday on Thursday.

    In terms of Mr. Panday’s Appeal application, his attorney stated they will be filing the papers tomorrow 26th April, 2006.

    The attorneys were clearly disappointed that a decision for bail could not be reached today. The Attorneys for Mr. Panday came to court with the expectation that the bail application would have been a very simple procedure. However, because the Judge will have to examine a large amount of documents, the process is expected to be a lengthy one.

    None of Mr. Panday’s family, supporters or UNC executives were present at the High Court today.

    President George Maxwell Richards issued a statement saying that “Mr. Panday shall forthwith cease to perform his duties as a Member of Parliament.” This means that Mr. Panday’s Couva North seat is now vacant. The President also declared the office of Opposition Leader vacant. The only post that Mr. Panday now holds is Chairman of the United National Congress.

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