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Monday, April 24, 2006

IN FINDING Opposition leader and former prime minister Basdeo Panday guilty of making false declarations to the Integrity Commission, Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls said Panday lied about the London bank account in question.

In his 18 page judgment McNicolls said: "The defendant's continued answers under cross-examination about his failure to declare the London's bank account showed quite clearly he was not being truthful."

The judgment read: "I form the view that those instructions were clear and unambiguous and must be followed strictly by the declarant if his declaration is going to be truthful and accurate. The defendant, being a qualified attorney-at-law should have had absolutely no difficulty whatever in interpreting the relevant instructions recorded above.

"Section 17 of the Act describes assets as including money, beneficially held in Trinidad and Tobago or elsewhere by him.

"It must necessarily follow therefore that the National Westminster Account is declarable since it is in the joint name of the defendant, and also because it is maintained on behalf of his family by his wife. And since he is financially responsible for his family, it is a benefit enjoyed by him according to Section 17 of the Act and must be disclosed."

The judgment added: "I am impressed with the forward manner in which the witnesses for the prosecution testified. They were not discredited in any way under cross-examination and I accepted them as witnesses of truth.

"At the close of the prosecution's case I was satisfied that it had proved its case and called upon the defendant (Panday) to answer the charges which he did."

The judgement continued: "When asked the question by the prosecutor whether he thought he should disclose the account, his answer was "if that was the law, then I should have." When asked for an explanation as to why he did not have the bank statements etc sent to his address in Trinidad, the answer the defendant gave his wife visited England often was rejected and the court inferred that the real reason was to conceal the account from the local authorities having regard to the fact that he considered the money in the account to be his."

The judgment continued: "I inferred from the facts that the defendant was not speaking the truth when he said he did not consider the moneys in the account to be his and his reason for not disclosing it. Indeed, by his own admission, he accepted that the money was for his family's benefit and himself and the very witness called by the defence confirmed that even though the wife took care of the money it was the family's wealth.