FRANCIS JOSEPH Thursday, April 27 2006
BASDEO PANDAY stood still, but managed a smile as Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls found him guilty this morning of knowingly failing to declare his London bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Mc Nicolls ordered that Panday pay the maximum fine of $20,000 on each of the three charges. In default, Panday is to serve three years in prison. The former Prime Minister was also ordered to serve two years in jail on each charge. These sentences are to run concurrently.
Additionally, Panday is to pay to the State the sum of 159,600.35 pounds sterling (TT $1.6 million) which represents monies in the London account at the end of 1997, 1998, and 1999. Failure to pay this amount to the State will result in the State forfeiting property belonging to Panday.
Desmond Allum SC, one of the lawyers representing Panday, gave oral notice of appeal and asked bail for his client. Lead prosecutor, British Queen’s Counsel Sir Timothy Cassel, had no objections to bail, but said this was a matter for the Chief Magistrate.
But the Chief Magistrate refused to grant bail to the Leader of the Opposition. Panday, with his head bent at this time, was led away by the police to the cell area of the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court.
Tears came to the eyes of his daughter Mikela, and FIFA vice-president Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, one of the deputy political leaders of the United National Congress (UNC). The court was packed with relatives of the former Prime Minister and many of his political colleagues. But noticeably absent was Panday’s wife Oma, with whom he shared the London bank account.
Among those in court were Wade Mark, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Panday’s brother Subhas, Dr Roodal Moonilal, Harry Partap, Vasant Bharath, Orlando Nagessar, Jennifer Jones-Kernahan, and Dr Rupert Griffith.
Mc Nicolls kept the court waiting until his appearance at 10.06 a.m. Before Mc Nicolls gave his decision in an 18-page judgment, Allum complained about the police raid on the home and offices of CLICO Chairman Lawrence Andre Duprey last Friday afternoon.
Allum pointed out that with just three days to Mc Nicolls’ decision, the Police Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) executed warrants on Duprey. “That is passing strange that despite the only persons being privy to the intended execution of the warrants would have been the members of the ACIB , the media arrives at the business premises of the witness (in Panday’s case) at or about the same time the police arrived to execute the warrants.”
Allum called on Mc Nicolls to make a clear and unequivocal statement as to his concern concerning the timing in which the warrants were executed.
He called on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Geoffrey Henderson to launch an immediate investigation into the matter and determine whether he should seek the committal of these involved to the High Court for contempt proceedings.
But Mc Nicolls pointed all concerned to the last page of his judgment. “The people of Trinidad and Tobago should know that my mind is free from all of influences because of the immense coverage given by the media in this matter and that they had no bearing whatever in the decision I have arrived at. The maxim ‘justice is blind’ and there is a rule of law for everyone regardless of personality is still alive and well in our society today.”
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