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PANDAY: ‘They want to jail me!’

By Earl Manmohan, Newsday

The Integrity Commission (IC) has completed its investigation into the alleged $10 million London bank account held by UNC leader Basdeo Panday and his wife Oma, and has forwarded a particular matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for further enquiry.

This was confirmed yesterday by Geoffrey Henderson, DPP who said that a team of senior attorneys in his department is reviewing the matter to see what action, if any, should be taken.

Panday also confirmed the latest development yesterday at a press briefing held following a party retreat at de Freitas Ranch, Valencia. He said he had been informed by the Integrity Commission by letter on Thursday morning that certain matters had gone to the DPP.

Panday also told reporters that Prime Minister Patrick Manning had told a select group of journalists at his home on Thursday night that he (Panday) would be arrested next week.

The group of journalists who were invited by Mr Manning to his residence on Thursday were Ria Taitt (Newsday), Tony Fraser (Freelance commentator), Rosemary Sant (TV6) and Sasha Mohammed (Wire). All the journalists who were contacted yesterday stated that they could not recall Mr Manning making any such statement.

Panday's London bank account shot into the news in May when the IC wrote him asking for an explanation about the movement of money in the account held at National Westminster Bank, Wimbledon, South London.

There were reports that several large deposits had been made in pounds sterling reportedly ranging from 150,000, 120,000, 90,000, 50,000 and 80,000. (The rate of exchange is almost TT$10 to one pound sterling. Questioned about his failure to disclose the account to the IC as is required by law, Panday stated that the account belonged to his wife, Oma.

However, the Integrity in Public Life Act, 2000 compels a public official to disclose the assets of himself, his spouse and children.

If the IC is not satisfied with the information submitted to it, it has an option of asking the President to appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter or refer it to the DPP. A person failing to declare his assets, liabilities and income to the IC faces a fine of $250,000 and imprisonment for 10 years if found guilty.

Commenting on Manning's statement that he (Panday) would be arrested next week, the UNC leader added: "I am not sure how he knew that, whether there is any collusion between himself and the DPP and or the Integrity Commission but I am prepared for it."

Panday said it wouldn't be the first time that the PNM had sought to win elections by oppression, adding that he had been the subject of this before in 1995 and "I expect that I would be subject of it again. I also expect I will also be victorious no matter what they do."

Panday said he intended to take this issue of the bank account of which they speak to the public at a public meeting to be held on Tuesday at the Couva South constituency office, Camden Court.

"I intend to reveal to the public the entire situation about this bank account. They will be the judge."

Panday said he can't recall exactly what the legislation said but believed that the procedure was that the IC sends its findings to the DPP.

"I am not saying that I would be arrested because it was sent to the DPP but because Mr Manning had said I would be arrested. I would like to hear him deny that," Panday stated.

He said if he was arrested before Tuesday he would address supporters by video, fax or e-mail.

Asked whether he had any message for his supporters, Panday said: "My supporters are rational and reasonable people and they know what they have to do. My instructions are do not engage in violence. If I am in jail don't take me out, do what you have to do and never, never surrender."

He said the information he supplied to the commission was the total truth. Asked whether this would implicate him in any way, Panday replied: "You will have to decide. I will tell you what the facts are. I could tell you one thing. It's not $10 million or 10 million pounds (sterling). I hope if anybody has aspirations to kidnapping me wouldn't believe that. I have no security, the people will protect me."

UNC St Augustine MP Gerald Yetming said he has seen the documents and was absolutely satisfied there was nothing unusual about the bank account and that it was corrupt. He said the party had no doubt about Panday's integrity and they stood by him, adding that if he was arrested all 17 MPs would stand by him. He said they were united now more than ever.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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