BY INDARJIT SEURAJ
CL Financial executive chairman Lawrence Duprey yesterday testified that he gave money to two of Basdeo Panday’s daughters for the pursuit of their studies in law as the Pandays were not doing too well financially.
Panday, who was prime minister at that time, and earning an annual salary of close to $200,000 did not testify to this when he took the stand the previous week.
Duprey’s explanation is yet another version of why the Pandays’ Nat West account was opened in 1993.
When asked under cross-examination by British Queen’s Counsel Sir Timothy Cassel whether they were deserving of the awards, Duprey said: “Yes, they were going through hardships.”
“But weren’t there more deserving people at that time?” Cassel followed up.
“Yes, but I thought at that time that the prime minister’s daughters were most deserving,” Duprey answered.
Duprey was the penultimate witness to give evidence for Panday, as the defence closed its case in the summary trial against the former prime minister yesterday.
Panday is on three charges of knowingly making a false declaration of income and assets for the years 1997, ’98 and ’99, contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 1987.
Under cross-examination yesterday, Duprey said he could not remember which account the money for the grant was taken from.
This period formed part of an intense session in which Duprey was also grilled about his alleged involvement in several projects in the energy sector.
“I do not remember exactly what was the transaction in this case,” Duprey said, when asked to recall the transaction leading to the grant.
“I have not identified who did it,” he added.
“It could have been my secretary or Carlos John.”
He said although he gave the grant to the Pandays, he never asked for any “curry favours” from the former prime minister.
He also said it was not the largest sum granted.
“It is not the highest and it is not the smallest,” he said.
Maintaining that he had no particular affiliations with any one political group, Duprey said he also handed out a scholarship grant to two children of NJAC leader Makandal Daaga.
Duprey had earlier given evidence that he remembered receiving a phone call from Oma Panday in which she asked for the grant.
His conversations with Oma, he said, were different and independent from those with her husband.
“There were things which I spoke to Oma about but not Panday,” he said.
He also denied he asked for any favours for projects in the energy sector which were ongoing around the time the 1997 grant was given.
He was also questioned on whether he received a seven-year tax holiday, which was given to his methanol and ammonia companies, as other companies would normally receive five-year periods.
“Yes, because we were taking risks and building plants when nobody else was,” Duprey said, noting that it was all part of the government’s incentive packages to build.
He was then questioned about his alleged involvement in the NGC/BP contract, in which the Panday administration stepped in and got BP to waive the contract to favour Duprey getting cheaper gas prices for his methanol investments.
“I was only at the first negotiation meeting and probably one more after that. I wouldn’t know,” he said.
He said it would make sense to pay $1 million for contracts of such magnitudes.
“Given my ability, it would be silly to ask for any political favours,” Duprey added.
Also giving evidence yesterday was former chief medical officer Dr Rampersad Parasam, who was also the Pandays’ pundit.
He described Panday as being a “workaholic” and said it was not surprising that Oma handled the finances.
He said that this was so in a traditional Hindu home.
©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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