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Panday: ‘Sorry next time’

Panday: ‘Sorry next time’

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23.MAR.07

TRINIDAD – As Trinidad’s UNC celebrated Tuesday’s court victory which lifted the yoke of a criminal conviction from around its leader’s neck, the State will be moving swiftly to retry Basdeo Panday on charges of failing to disclose a foreign bank account to the Integrity Commission.

The removal of the conviction clears the way for 73-year-old charismatic leader of the Opposition party to return to the House of Representatives and to contest an electoral seat in the upcoming general elections, his lawyers said.{{more}}

In an immediate reaction outside the Hall of Justice, Panday said: “Tell those who had hoped I would end up in prison, because they felt that was the only way to advance their political careers: sorry, next time.”

Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson offered a brief comment:

“It is an ordinary principle of criminal law that where an appellate court allows an appeal and orders a retrial such a retrial must always be heard expeditiously.”

Word coming from Panday’s legal camp last night suggested that they were

“seriously considering” challenging the Appeal Court’s decision to order a retrial before the Privy Council.

Panday remains out on $300,000 bail, which was granted to him on the basis of his health conditions, after he spent four days in jail. He and his wife, Oma, are also facing trial on corruption charges due to begin on June 4, relating to Piarco Airport project.

In an anticipated ruling, the Appeal Court, comprising Justices Margot Warner, Ivor Archie and Paula-Mae Weekes, held that an informed, fair-minded observer could conclude that there was “a real possibility of bias” on the part of Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls who found Panday guilty on the three charges and imposed the maximum penalty-of two years hard labour, $60,000 in fines and an order to forfeit $1.6 million back in April, last year.

Panday was charged in 2002, but his criminal trial only proceeded in 2006, after he had exhausted his constitutional challenge all the way to the Privy Council unsuccessfully.

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