By Francis Joseph, www.newsday.co.tt
FORMER United National Congress (UNC) Minister Sadiq Baksh was yesterday granted $1 million bail when he appeared in court on two charges arising out of the Piarco Airport Development Project investigations. Baksh, 53, surrendered to officers of the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Investi-gations at Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, around 9 am yesterday. He was accompanied by his lawyers, Prakash Ramadar, Chaitram Sinanan and Kevin Rattiram. After he was processed by the investigating officer Senior Supt Maurice Piggott, Baksh was taken in an unmarked police car to the Port-of-Spain Magis-trates' Court. He alighted from the vehicle, and waved and smiled to persons who had turned up to show their support to the UNC Senator. He was taken to the court cells to await his appearance before the magistrate.
It wasn't until 10.50 am that Baksh went before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet in the Port-of-Spain First Magistrates' Court. Dressed in a green shirt and black trousers, Baksh sat silently in the dock. His attorneys were present, but the team prosecuting persons in the Piarco Airport Development project probe were before Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in the other inquiry involving eight defendants and three companies. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Carla Brown-Antoine turned up and apologised to the magistrate, explaining that she was before the Chief Magistrate. Magistrate Espinet then read the two charges to Baksh (see pages 8, 9, 11, and 19). Baksh stood still as the magistrate patiently read out the lengthy first charge. Baksh had been charged jointly with other persons, some of whom were arrested on Monday night and Tuesday morning and who had already appeared in court.
The second charge was then read, "that he Sadiq Baksh, between July 8, 1999 and December 10, 1999, in the island of Trinidad and Tobago, did corruptly obtain from Northern Construction Limited for the United National Congress, consideration to the value of $2,592,012.59 being the payment of a debt owed by the UNC to Diversified Communications Limited as a reward for Sadiq Baksh, an agent, favouring or forbearing to disfavour the interests of Northern Construction Limited in relation to the new terminal development project at Piarco contrary to section 4 (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act No 11 of 1987." The magistrate informed Baksh that the charges were laid indictably and therefore he was not called upon to plead.
Attorney Sinanan told the court that Baksh had turned himself in to the police and has no intention of leaving the jurisdiction. He pointed out that bail was fixed in the sum of $1 million, but pleaded with the magistrate to reduce the amount. Sinanan said Baksh was 53 years old and it was the first time that the Member of Parliament was appearing in any court in Trinidad or any country. He said Baksh had no previous conviction, nor was there any pending matters in any part of the world. The defence attorney said Baksh has three children and was the party organiser for the UNC. "He is a Senator as well as a businessman. He is a former Member of Parliament and he has strong business and social ties in this country."
Brown-Antoine told the court that she found the bail amount to be reasonable. The magistrate said she was minded to increase the bail amount, but in the end, she decided to leave it at $1 million. Magistrate Espinet then adjourned Baksh's case to today when the eight other defendants arrested earlier this week will re-appear. The hearing ended at 11.07 am. It was not until 12.20 pm, however, that Baksh obtained bail and walked out of the court house with his attorneys and his son. Baksh was smiling as he emerged from the building. When questioned by reporters, Baksh said he was innocent, that the charges were bogus, and comical. Baksh then calmly walked down St Vincent Street towards the Red House where he has been a Member of Parliament since the UNC took office in November 1995.
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