OMA IN BIG bucks libel lawsuits - ‘Express’ sued for $25m...and PM for $7m
By Neal Rasmine
In one of the biggest libel suits filed in the country, the Sunday Express is being sued for $25 million and Prime Minister Patrick Manning for $7 million.
This is over a report that links Oma Panday, wife of UNC leader Basdeo Panday to a US$150,000 cheque sent to her by the National Lotteries Control Board.
The writs, naming Oma Panday and the Organisation for Socio-economic Development as the plaintiffs, are yet to be served on the defendants, since a statement of claim has not been completed. It was filed on Monday by Montano and Co.
Mrs Panday is seeking $25 million in damages for libel contained in a story under the headline “Oma’s Lottery Luck” published in the Sunday Express.
Her attorneys are also seeking an injunction restraining the newspaper from printing any further “libellous reports.”
Robin Montano, in a telephone interview yesterday, said the Express story “gave numerous damaging details” of a July 12, 2002 report into the financial operations of the NLCB by a team of legal auditors from the firm Alexander, Jeremie and Company.
The report stated the money was solicited by Mrs Panday for the purchase of a clino-mobile unit for the OSED and was sent to the organisation’s address at the Prime Minister’s official residence in St Ann’s.
Manning’s suit for $7 million was for statements he made at a news conference after a PNM General Council meeting at Balisier House on Sunday.
Montano was livid yesterday.
He said the NLCB report was “nasty as it was wrong” since it was “from the PNM to PNM” .
Montano said NLCB chairman Louis Lee Sing is a prominent PNM supporter and the legal audit was conducted by attorney John Jeremie of Alexander, Jeremie and Company, who is the PNM-appointed chairman of the National Broadcasting Network.
Montano who is being led in the matter by Sonny Maharaj SC said: “This has got to stop, because what the report is really saying is that Mrs Panday dipped her hand in the cookie jar”.
He also confirmed the OSED is still in operation.
The Prime Minister was not in office to comment on the writ but Attorney General Glenda Morean said she was not officially informed of the legal action, but it was a private matter, not involving the State.
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