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Ex-Trinidad PM Panday sentenced to jail

Basdeo Panday was found guilty of failing to declare a bank account he and his wife held in Britain.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 12:50 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday has been sentenced to two years in jail after being found guilty of failing to declare a bank account he and his wife held in Britain.

Chief magistrate Sherman McNicolls handed down the maximum sentence for corruption to Panday, a leader of the leading political party United National Congress (UNC), after hearing a summary of charges in a Port-of-Spain court on Monday.

Panday was given a three-year sentence of hard labour but will have to serve only two years as his sentence will run concurrently.

Besides, he has been fined TT$20,000 on each of three offences and has been imposed with another penalty of TT$1.5 million, which represents the total accumulated year-end balances in the bank account for the three years in question, to be paid to the state.

The 72-year-old has been found guilty of failing to disclose income and assets for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, which went against Section (1)(b) of the country's Integrity in Public Life Act of 1987, the reports said.

He and his wife, Oma, jointly held the British account, which had millions of dollars, according to media reports.

The sentencing ends a legal battle that started in 2002 when he was originally charged. This was followed by several legal actions challenging the validity of these charges.

This is the first time that a former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister has been found guilty of criminal charges. Observers here say that the judgement has effectively ended Panday's political career.

Born on May 25, 1933, to parents who were first generation migrants from India, Panday worked as a sugar weighing man, a schoolteacher and then as a civil servant.

He then studied law in Lincoln's Inn, London, and economics in London University.

Upon his return to Trinidad, he entered politics. Though unsuccessful at first, his persistence paid off in the long run.

In 1995, after the UNC, a party he founded, shone in the country's general election he was made Prime Minister, the first Indo-Trinidadian to hold the post.

Though the UNC again won the elections in 2000, intra-party squabbles forced a re-election in 2001, which ended in tie.

Following more strife within the party over charges of corruption, Panday handed over the leadership to Patrick Manning, the country's present Prime Minister.

Monday's ruling saw Panday's family members and UNC supporters breaking into tears. His lawyers have said that they will promptly file an appeal. Prime Minister Manning was quoted as saying that he was sorry about the matter.

First Published: Apr 25, 2006 12:45 IST