Pandays et al return to court

News


Basdeo Panday –

EVEN as the Director of Public Prosecutions considers his next move on the decades-old Piarco corruption charges against a former minister and several businessmen, former prime minister Basdeo Panday his wife Oma, former minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh returned to the Port of Spain magistrates court on Wednesday on spin-off charges.

The Pandays were charged with corruptly receiving money while John and Galbaransingh were charged with corruptly giving 25,000 British pounds sterling to the Pandays.

John and Galbaransingh were accused of giving Panday the money as an inducement or reward in relation to the Piarco airport expansion project.

On Wednesday, the matter came up before Magistrate Adia Mohammed who said she received authorisation to have the matter restarted afresh, but was in the process of trying to gather all documents to determine where the inquiry was at.

An adjournment was sought by the State to get further instructions from the DPP on how he was likely to proceed with this matter.

The request was strongly resisted by defence attorneys for the four, Sophia Chote, SC, Rajiv Persad and Justin Phelps.

The matter was put to September 2, when the magistrate will rule on whether to grant an adjournment and for how long.

She also gave directions for the filing of written submissions on the issue.

The Pandays and the others were charged in 2005.

A preliminary inquiry began before former senior magistrate Ejenny Espinet on May 31, 2006.

On February 12, 2008, Panday asked that magistrate to recuse herself, saying he received information that she was a trustee and treasurer of the Morris Marshall Development Foundation, and thus would be biased against him because of alleged close connections with the People’s National Movement (PNM).

After his challenge was dismissed, the case, referred to as the Piarco III inquiry, continued before Espinet until she retired in 2018, leaving it part-heard.

The charges against the former prime minister were linked to wider charges against several businessmen and businesses.

In all there are four related inquiries, none of which have gone to trial.

On June 29, DPP Roger Gaspard, SC, said it had been his public position that “taking Piarco I to trial would have been oppressive if not legally nettlesome while the other matters related to the airport project were in train, bearing in mind that there were common accused in both sets of matters.”

Instead, he said, “A joint trial of the allegations in Piarco No. I and those arising from those other matters was desirable.”

Two days earlier, the Privy Council held that a complaint by the accused charged in Piarco I of apparent bias against then Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls was sufficient to strike down their committal to stand trial before a judge and jury.

Gaspard said he now has to consider the future of the case.

The ruling by the London court followed a ruling by a US judge disqualifying Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, and the US law firm Sequor Law from a multi-million-dollar civil-asset forfeiture case linked to the same Piarco project, on the basis of Armour’s previous work as an attorney for former minister Brian Kuei Tung.

The disqualification of Sequor Law is under appeal in the US.

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