Thursday 24th November, 2005


PNM chairman surrenders...slips in court through magistrates’ door

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Television cameramen rush to get footage of PNM chairman Franklyn Khan as he leaves Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court after his appearance on bribery charges yesterday.

Photo: Shirley Bahadur

By Denyse Renne

PNM chairman Franklin Khan appeared before senior magistrate Lianne Lee Kim yesterday charged with six counts of misbehaviour in public office.

Khan, who was not called upon to plead since the charges were laid indictably, was escorted to the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court by Fraud Squad officers after surrendering to the police at around 9 am with his attorney Gilbert Peterson, SC, at the Park and Richmond Street headquarters.

He was granted $250,000 bail to cover the six bribery charges.

Unlike previous occasions, when arrested politicians entered the court via the prisoners’ entrance, Khan managed to avoid media personnel eagerly awaiting his arrival there.

Khan, who resigned as Works and Transport Minister earlier this year, was instead ushered into the Duke Street entrance used by some of the court’s magistrates.

This annoyed some court police officers who said they viewed Khan as any ordinary man who had been charged.

“It is not fair. He should have been brought through the entrance used by prisoners,” an angry officer said.

“We have had several politicians appear in this court, and when they make their first appearance, they are escorted through the entrance the prisoners use.”

A few minutes after he was processed, Khan was escorted to the 4A court’s prisoners dock at 10.40 am, where he sat. His trademark smile was nowhere in sight as he awaited the arrival of Lee Kim. Two of Khan’s relatives sat in the public gallery among media personnel.

As Khan waited, a man entered the courtroom, looked and pointed at him and said: “Remember what happen to Dhanraj; he get lock up.”

The man, referring to former UNC local government minister Dhanraj Singh who was acquitted of a murder charge last year, then sat at the back of the court, looking at Khan and smiling.

None of Khan’s parliamentary colleagues was present at his hearing.

At 11.07 am, Lee Kim entered and indicated for Khan to approach her.

Smiling, Khan stood before her and listened as the charges accusing him of misconduct in public office by corruptly accepting $120,500 from PNM councillor Dansam Dhansook were read.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between February 3 and July 8, 2003.

After the third charge was read, Khan’s smile disappeared and, at times, he closed his eyes and stood with his hands clasped in front of him.

Peterson told the court that he and Hayden St Clair Douglas represented Khan, while Lee Kim was informed by court prosecutor Sgt Prospect that no state attorney was present.

However, sources said that the State has retained the services of a British Queen’s Counsel who will be present at the next hearing.

Peterson told the court that bail had already been set by the clerk of the peace, while Prospect said she had no objections to bail since Khan had nothing recorded against him.

Lee Kim then adjourned the matter to December 8, and she transferred the matter to the San Fernando First Magistrates Court.

Khan then exited—through the court’s main entrance.

No favours for Khan - AG

Attorney General John Jeremie has denied claims made by Opposition senators Wade Mark and Robin Montano that there was favourable treatment meted out to PNM chairman Franklin Khan in comparison to former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

In a press release from the Office of the Attorney General, Jeremie said: “Both Mark and Montano would be aware that deliberations or investigations of the Integrity Commission are by law secret, and it would be contrary to law for the Commission to respond to these statements or to the status of any other investigation that may be ongoing.”

Jeremie was responding to statements made by Mark during a press conference at the Red House, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday. Mark compared the action to the swiftness of Panday’s arrest on his failure to declare assets in a London bank account.

Jeremie also dismissed claims that Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson took a longer period in preferring charges against Khan than he did against Panday.

“The records would show that in the case of Mr Panday, the Integrity Commission wrote the DPP on July 18, 2002, disclosing a bundle of documents and commenting that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that offences were committed under the 1987 Integrity in Public Life Act.”

Jeremie further added that Panday was not charged until September 18, 2002.

He also noted that Khan’s report to the Integrity Commission was submitted to Henderson on October 20 and the charges were laid on November 23, 2005.

Adding that corruption investigations take “a long time, sometimes years, to be completed,” Jeremie said there are active investigations now afoot, which commenced five and six years ago.





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