Panday to know fate tomorrow on hidden bank account charges
(Trinidad Guardian) Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday is expected to know his fate tomorrow
after a second trial into charges of failing to declare a London bank account. Magistrate Marcia Murray is expected to deliver her decision when the matter resumes at 10 am in the Port-of-Spain First Magistrate’s Court.
At yesterday’s hearing, Panday’s lawyer, David Aaronberg, QC, continued legal arguments that the lead investigator had failed to interview people pertinent to the matter and therefore the case was incomplete. Aaronberg argued the prosecution failed to prove Panday had benefited and at the time of signing the statutory declaration, he had not been “deliberately evasive or untruthful about the accounts.”
Aaronberg said Panday’s wife, Oma, was the “true beneficial owner of the account.” On Monday, Aaronberg made an application to have the matter dismissed on the basis the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Panday is on trial for allegedly failing to declare a London bank account, contrary to the Integrity in Public Life Act, and is accused of failing to disclose the account at National Westminster Bank plc, Wimbledon, London, to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997 to 1999.
In March 2006, Panday was found guilty and sentenced by then Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nichols to serve two years in prison, the maximum penalty under the law. He appealed the decision and the conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal and a retrial ordered, which was upheld on appeal to the Privy Council.
On Monday, Aaronberg hinted the investigation against Panday was politically motivated and said the former prime minister had not committed any wrong by failing to declare the accounts. Aaronberg said Panday was being prosecuted under the Integrity in Public Life Act 1987 but that prior to the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000 public figures were not required to declare assets belonging to their spouses.
Responding to Aaronberg’s closing arguments, prosecutor Timothy Cassel, QC, said monies being deposited and withdrawn from the account during the years 1997 to 1999 were “wholly disproportionate” to Panday’s yearly earnings as the prime minister.