BY INDARJIT SEURAJ
A cheque for 119,183 pounds sterling, the equivalent of TT$1.3 million, was a scholarship grant given to the Pandays by CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey for the education expenses of two of their daughters studying in London.
The disclosure came out in open court as defence attorney for former prime minister Basdeo Panday, Allan Newman, QC, led evidence from the UNC chairman yesterday.
Before a packed courtroom in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Court, and in the presence of UNC colleagues Senator Wade Mark and Oropouche MP Roodal Moonilal, Newman led evidence about the grant in anticipation of the prosecution’s line of questioning.
“Were there any understanding of favours in return for the grant?” Newman asked.
“None whatsoever,” Panday replied.
Panday is before Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls on three charges of knowingly making a false declaration of income and assets for the years 1997, 1999 and 1998, contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) the Integrity in Public Life Act 1987.
Panday went on to describe Duprey, a friend who he had known since his days as a trade-unionist, as being “politically concerned about the political welfare of the country.”
He added that he had not known anything about the 1997 grant and it was only brought to his attention by his wife Oma, when he started mounting his defence in this matter.
But in cross-examination, lead prosecutor British Queen’s Counsel Timothy Cassel questioned Panday’s dealings with Duprey.
“Did he (Duprey) hold contracts with the government when you were prime minister?” Cassel asked.
Panday answered: “Not that I am aware of.”
“Do you regard TT$1 million as a great deal of money?” Cassel questioned.
“That depends on whether you are rich or poor. For the fees you are collecting on my behalf, I guess that’s not much,” Panday replied, as the court broke into laughter.
Cassel argued that the increases to the Nat West account were not reflective of Panday’s income as prime minister.
But in response, Panday said the money received from the All Sugar and General Workers Trade Union as well as his profession as a lawyer formed his other sources of income.
He said that currency transfer between his brother and sister-in-law, both from London, also added to the account.
Panday said he had done only one transaction while his name was on the Nat West account.
He said he had written a cheque to pay a bill which was owed to his family physician in London.
He, however, did not regard this as a personal transaction.
But Cassel was unsatisfied with the answer given and asked: “So you mean you don’t regard this as a personal transaction?”
“No, I don’t,” Panday answered.
Cassel also argued that it was strange for an account opened to provide for the education of Panday’s children to have so many transfers between the Nat West account and Oma’s Diamond Reserve account.
“I don’t know. Women do stupid things. I’m sorry, I take that back. I meant unusual things,” the politician said in response.
Cassel suggested that Panday and his wife deliberately addressed correspondence with the Wimbledon bank to Merle Mohammed in Surrey, England, in an effort to hide the account.
The Duprey file
* November 28, 1999—Lawrence Duprey and Tidco chairman Carlos John are appointed to the board of state-airline BWIA.
* May 24, 2000—Carlos John is appointed a member of the Senate and a Minister in the Panday-led UNC administration. He was the Minister of Infrastructure.
* December 4, 2000—Lawrence Duprey appears on a political platform for Carlos John and says investor climate in T&T has never been so good.
* July 2001—Clico drops offer to purchase Caroni Rum Distillery and Tanteak.
* Allegations of a London bank account surface implicating UNC leader Basdeo Panday and Clico honcho Lawrence Duprey.
* October 15, 2004—Carlos John’s home is raided by members of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
* October 26, 2004—Lawrence Duprey’s home is raided by members of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
* October 27, 2004—The Point Lisas office of Clico Propan is raided by members of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
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