By FRANCIS JOSEPH
FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday will go on trial on January 9 with respect to the charges laid against him under the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000.
Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls, presiding in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates’ Court, said he had given the defence more than sufficient time to pursue its constitutional motion challenging the filing of the charges.
When the matter was called yesterday, Panday was accompanied by several of his parliamentary colleagues.
Panday was represented by Fyard Hosein SC, while Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Carla Brown-Antoine appeared for the State.
Hosein informed the court that an appeal was pending before the Privy Council. Panday had filed a constitutional motion challenging the laying of the charges. He had been charged in 2002 with failing to declare to the Integrity Commission his London bank accounts for 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Panday contended that he should have been charged within six months of the commission of the alleged offences. He also claimed that he was charged under the 1987 Act, but the State argued that the former prime minister was charged under the repealed Act.
Madame Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, presiding in the Port-of-Spain High Court, dismissed Panday’s motion and ordered him to pay costs to the State. Panday appealed, but the Court of Appeal rejected his motion, ordering him to pay costs.
His lawyers then sought leave of the Court of Appeal for him to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. But the Court of Appeal turned him down and granted no stay of the criminal proceedings pending any appeal to London.
Yesterday, Hosein indicated that his client was still contending that the charges were laid out of time. But Brown-Antoine said the court had given sufficient latitude to the Leader of the Opposition to get a stay of the proceedings.
"The judgment of the Court of Appeal was given in July... this is December. The Privy Council will be shocked that this summary trial has not yet gotten started. This is a summary matter,"she contended.
Brown-Antoine pointed out that the State was ready to proceed with the case.
Mc Nicolls said he had given the defence more than sufficient time to pursue their claim. He fixed January 9 to start the case, saying the onus was on the defence to pursue their appeal.
The State indicated that it has seven witnesses.
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