McDonald, Panday also charged while in public office

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Marlene McDonald speaks to the media in office as public administration minister in August 2018. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

BEFORE Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee faced charges for alleged fraud on Friday, this country has seen just two, albeit high-profile, politicians being charged while in public office within the past two decades.

Most recently, former MP for Port of Spain South Marlene McDonald was charged in April, 2019, along with four others, in relation to alleged offences dated between 2008 and 2009.

McDonald was relieved from her duties as minister and a deputy political leader of the PNM in August, 2019, after facing the charges.

McDonald was accused of misbehaviour in the improper approval of a $2.3 million payment for the construction of a project at Marcano quarry in Laventille.

While the charge of misbehaviour was dropped in March, McDonald is still before the courts on three charges of conspiracy to defraud, two of misbehaving in public office and another of money laundering.

She was charged alongside her long-time companion Michael Carew, Wayne Anthony, Victor McEachrane (both contractors) and Edgar Zepherine, former chairman of the National Commission for Self Help.

The five accused five faced dozens of charges of attempting to defraud the government by allegedly procuring funds, over $1 million from the Ministry of Community Development and Culture, to the Calabar Foundation.

Calabar was established in 2010 by Carew, who allegedly disguised it as a charity.

Former prime minister and UNC leader Basdeo Panday. FILE PHOTO –

In the first case, an event that made international news, former prime minister and UNC leader Basdeo Panday was charged with three counts of fraud in 2002 in the run up to that year’s general election.

He was found guilty of failing to declare a bank account he and his wife, Oma Panday, held in London. The former PM was convicted of the crime in 2006. He was initially sentenced to two years with hard labour and fined $20,000. However, a year year later the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

In May, 2005, the Pandays were arrested on corruption charges stemming from a $250,000 payment the pair received from businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh and former UNC government minister Carlos John as an incentive to giving Northern Construction – chaired by Galbaransingh – a contract for the Piarco Airport Development Project. Charges against Panday were dropped in 2012.

Galbaransingh and John were also charged.