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Trinidad - Corruption : Williams’ bail increased to $.6m

By Exilus Deceyon

Port of Spain, 10th Jan 06 [AlterPresse] --- A day after he resigned as Energy Minister, Port-of-Spain South MP Eric Williams was yesterday granted bail in the sum of $.6 million when he appeared in court on seven charges of misbehaviour in public office.

Early yesterday morning, Williams, who consistently maintained his innocence of the charge that he accepted a total of $75,000 from PNM councillor Dansam Dhansook in 2003, as bribes for a seismic contract in Pt Galeota, surrendered to Fraud Squad head Supt Glenroy Woodley at Fraud Squad’s Richmond Street offices, where he was formally charged.

On Saturday, the seven arrest warrants were issued for his arrest after the police received the go-ahead from Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson to charge him.

Williams, of 69 Luis Street, Woodbrook, showed no emotion as he stood in the prisoner’s box while the seven charges were being read out by Port-of-Spain fourth court magistrate Lianne Lee Kim.

The charges, which carried fines up to $500,000 and a ten year jail term upon conviction, were laid indictably.

As the matter of bail was sorted out by his lawyers Desmond Allum, SC, and Rajiv Persad, a fleeting smile emerged on his lips but he maintained his composed look even after he left the court house some three hours later after posting the $600,000 bail set by magistrate Lee Kim.

Lee Kim altered the bail, increasing it by $.25 million. Justice of the Peace Ackbar Khan had, over the weekend, initially endorsed bail in the sum of $350,000, to cover all the charges.

It is understood that Williams’ mother Edris Todd-Williams, who was present in court, posted her son’s bail.

Lee Kim was also informed by the police prosecutor present in court that Senior Counsel is expected to be appointed to prosecute, before the matter was adjourned to January 19, when Williams is expected to reappear in court.

Lee Kim also indicated to the MP’s lawyers that she will keep the matter in her court.
Williams’ case began just minutes after the matter against former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday for failing to declare his London Bank account was adjourned in another court room.

As Panday left the St Vincent Street courthouse, he was heckled by Williams’ supporters, who later shielded their MP from members of the media as he was being escorted to his car, driven by his brother Ernest.

The noisy group, who withstood three hours of blistering midday sun outside the courthouse, also issued threats to the large contingent of media personnel who gathered to cover the event.

Speaking afterwards, Allum, Williams’ lawyer, would only say “the law will take its course.”

Last November, Williams’ former Cabinet colleague, Ortoire/Mayaro MP Franklin Khan was also charged with six counts of misbehaviour in public office, allegedly arising out of the same incident for which Williams was charged.

Prior to his arrest, Khan had resigned as Works Minister and later as chairman of the ruling Peoples’ National Movement.

None of Williams former Cabinet colleagues was present in court for his court appearance.

Dhansook, who first wrote to Prime Minister Patrick Manning about the matter, has been granted immunity to testify against the two PNM MPs.

Up to late yesterday evening, the nation was awaiting word on Williams’ replacement as Energy Minister. [ed gp apr 10/01/2006 22:00]