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RINIDAD – Government gets nod to liquidate CFL

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul. 26, CMC  – The government has been granted permission to appoint provisional liquidators to preserve the assets of CL Financial as it seeks to recover a $15 billion debt left from the 2009 bailout of the conglomerate’s insurance subsidiaries Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) and British American Insurance Company (BAICO).

CourtIn the ruling handed down late Tuesday, appellate court judges Peter Rajkumar, Andre des Vignes and Charmaine Pemberton overturned a ruling by Justice Kevin Ramcharan and granted Government’s application for the appointment of two provisional liquidators.

The court also varied the orders sought by the Government as relative to the powers of the provisional liquidators.

Rajkumar  told the court that the reversal of Justice Ramcharan’s ruling given last Wednesday, was justified and weighed heavily in favour of the application to preserve and protect the further dissipation of CLF assets, in the public’s interest, as taxpayers are the conglomerate’s major creditors.

Based on this ruling, Hugh Dickson and Marcus Wide of international accounting firm Grant Thornton, will be appointed joint provisional liquidators in accordance with provisions set out in the appellate judges’ order.

Senior Counsel Deborah Peake who represented Government at the hearing, insisted the State did not rush to have the company wound-up. “We came to court when it became clear the company does not have the assets to pay its debt,” she said. “An insolvent company is not supposed to be trading.

This company is not temporarily insolvent, this company is chronically insolvent.

“Since 2009, government has been in rescue mode to see what can be done to recover the debt without liquidation. But there comes a time when enough is enough. This application is to stop the haemorrhaging of the company,” Peake said.

The hearing on Tuesday, was deemed urgent by government as there was the possibility that a meeting of CLF shareholders also carded for yesterday, would have seen them appointing Kirk Carpenter and Carlton Reis to the board which would have given majority shareholders control of the board and thus, control of the company.

As it stands, government controls the CLF Board by a four to three margin.

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CCJ orders release of men on death row in Barbados

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul. 25, CMC – The Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on Tuesday quashed the convictions of the two men  – Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes  – who sentenced to death for  murder  committed in Barbados in 2006.

The men  were set free on Tuesday, after being imprisoned since 2007.

CCJThey were charged for the murder of Damien Alleyne on July 21, 2007, almost a year after Alleyne’s death on August 11, 2006.

The court records stated that Alleyne was discovered by his girlfriend not far from her residence on the night of August 11, 2006.

She told the police that she heard explosions, which sounded like gunshots and later found him lying on the road. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Following their arrest Edwards and Haynes were  convicted of murder and sentenced the death.

On August 19, 2015, the appellants sought leave to appeal to the CCJ.

The regional court in handing down its ruling,  held that the convictions could not be upheld as the sole evidence presented by the  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was “not sufficient to ground a conviction having regard to the provisions and the general spirit of the Evidence Act”.

In a statement, the CCJ said the only evidence linking the appellants to the murder was their alleged oral confessions made to police officers in separate interviews with the officers while at a police station July 19, 2007 –  almost a year after Alleyne’s murder.

“Mr. Andrew Pilgrim, QC argued that there was no case to answer as this sole evidence was unreliable and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.”

The CCJ considered whether a defendant may be convicted in circumstances where the only evidence against him is a disputed and uncorroborated oral confession allegedly made to investigating police officers whilst the accused was in police custody.

The judgment of the Court was delivered by the Justice Anderson, with a concurring judgment by  Justice Saunders.

“The Court acknowledged that, prior to the Evidence Act, there was case law that supported the position that a man could be convicted of an offence where the sole evidence against him was an alleged oral confession provided that the jury was warned that such a conviction may be unsafe.

The CCJ, however, highlighted that the purpose of the Evidence Act which was passed by the Parliament of Barbados in 1994 was “to reform the law relating to evidence in proceedings in courts…” and to apply “standards that are more stringent than the common law, [compel] the judiciary to be guided by fresh approaches and [require] the executive to make available to the police new technologies.”

The Court stressed that the evidence against the accused men had to meet the appropriate standards outlined in the well-known decision of  R v Galbraith.

This meant that the evidence had to be reliable, especially in these proceedings where the punishment for murder in Barbados was death.

The CCJ stated that based on the spirit of the Evidence Act “alleged confessions made while in police custody could only meet this standard where it was supported by sound or video recordings of or by some other independent evidence linking the accused to the offence.”

The CCJ said that in this case, there was no other evidence and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.

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Application to inspect election ballots to be heard in new law term

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jul 13,  CMC – The application by lawyers for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) to inspect documents from the December 2015 general elections as part of the two petitions filed to challenge the outcome of that poll, will not be heard before mid September.

When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, it was adjourned to a date to be fixed by the Registrar of the High Court in the new law term.

criminal-justiceThe current law term ends this month.

Justice Esco Henry, who is presiding over the matter, also gave a six-point order outlining actions that the parties must take and their timeline.

Ben Exeter, who was the NDP’s candidate in Central Leeward in the 2015 general elections, has filed a petition challenging the outcome of the elections there.

His colleague, Lauron Baptiste, the NDP’s candidate in North Windward, has mounted a similar challenge in that district.

Electoral officials say those constituencies are among the eight won by the Unity Labour Party of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to secure a fourth consecutive term in office while the remaining seven seats went to the NDP.

When the motion to inspect the ballot boxes and other election documents came up for hearing on Wednesday, there was a long delay to allow for three foreign lawyers who have joined the government’s team to be called to the Vincentian Bar.

After they were seated, the court having processed their documents, which the judge noted were “hurriedly filed”, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendez of Trinidad and Tobago, who this month took over from Dominican Anthony Astaphan, SC as lead counsel for the respondents, asked for an adjournment.

He said he was requesting an adjournment, hopefully, to later this month, to give the respondents an opportunity to file affidavits in response to the petitioners’ request to inspect the election documents.

The petitions, which have been before the court since December 2015, will go to trial after a ruling by Justice Henry on June 30 that they are not invalid, as the respondents had claimed.

After that ruling, Astaphan said he has been battling ill health for some time and cannot continue as lead counsel, since he also has a backlog in Dominica.

Mendez told the court that it was only after the June 30 ruling by Justice Henry that the parties knew that they had to proceed to the next stage.

He said he was approached not long after that ruling, but, when questioned by Justice Henry, said he could not recall the exact date when he was retained, but said it was one or two days after the June 30 ruling.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had announced on June 30 that the legal team for the respondents was in consultation with Mendez.

Mendez told the court on Wednesday that there hasn’t been enough time to take instructions from the respondents.

He said he was asking for a seven-day adjournment to be able to file affidavits and respond to the motion.

Lead counsel for the petitioners, Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, told the court that he had no objections to the seven-day adjournment, providing that the matter definitely proceeds then.

He noted that Mendez had referred to the petitions being before the court for more than 18 months.

John said he was making this point to say that a lot of time can be saved if disclosure is made.

But Justice Henry was having none of it and told John that that is a discussion that could take place in the corridors among the parties.

Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who is lead counsel for Baptiste, said that his legal team intends to file a similar application to inspect the ballots.

John further told the court that submissions related to the application to inspect the ballots were first filed on March 4, 2016 and served on the respondents shortly after.

He said that while they were discontinued because of a ruling of the court, the new application would rely on the same submissions.

Mendez told the court that he was not aware of those submissions.

Justice Brian Cottle, who had later thrown out the petitions as improperly filed, had ruled that allowing the parties to inspect the ballot boxes would amount to a fishing expedition.

He had further claimed that doing so would allow the inspector to determine how electors voted, a claim that has shocked the nation, but upon which electoral officials have refused to comment.

The law terms end in July and the judge said that she has to attend the annual judicial conference from July 26 to 29, adding that she doesn’t think that the court can entertain the motion before the new law term.

Mendez also said that he had commitments in court in Trinidad that would make him unavailable for a few days towards the end of this month.

Among other things, by inspecting the ballot boxes, Exeter is hoping to determine whether 769 ballots from four polling stations in Central Leeward were validly cast.

The petitioners also want to determine whether the counterfoils for such defective ballots were endorsed by the initials of the presiding officer.  .

Exeter’s lawyers have laid out a number of grounds to support their motion, noting that their client has complained of undue return or undue election of Sir Louis Straker, who has been declared the winner of the Central Leeward seat.

They say that by inspecting the ballot boxes, it may be determined that Sir Louis was unduly elected or returned and that the election was void, or that he, Exeter, was duly elected and ought to be returned.

The lawyers are asking the court for an order for scrutiny and recount in respect of the defective ballots to which the objections were made by Exeter and/or his representative/agents.

A lawyer for the petitioners has told iWitness News that “the pivotal objective of the petitions is to establish that the form of the ballots was illegal and that as a result the sanctity of the secrecy of voting was compromised and that hundreds of illegally cast ballots were counted in contravention of the Representation of the People’s Act and regulations made under that law.

“Both the Supervisor and the Returning Officer for Central Leeward have each filed sworn affidavits admitting to the latter fact. The petitioner, Exeter, has filed a motion seeking inspection of the ballots, scrutiny and a recount as part of the trial process.”

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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Prime Minister to sue member of Election Commission

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jul. 12, CMC – Lawyers for  Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica  say they will be filing a lawsuit against a member of the Election Commission for statements made on a radio programme that they determined to be defamatory .

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

The lawyers had written to Hillary Shillingford demanding a “prompt reaction and an apology  in terms to be agreed by him and his attorneys”.

The lawyers gave Shillingford a deadline of  July 5 at 12:00pm and also demanded payment of compensation and costs.

It was also noted that if Shillingford failed to meet the demands, a lawsuit would be filed.

The lawyers also demanded a retraction and apology from the management of the radio station Q95fm .

The radio station was given the deadline of July 7.

The legal team said if this was not done, legal proceedings will also be instituted against them.

According to the head of the Skerrit’s team of lawyers, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, during a radio programme June 27, Shillingford made statements that implied that the Prime Minister abused his office.

“The words meant and were understood by the listeners of Q95 Radio on live radio and via the internet to mean that our client misused and abused the office and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and unlawfully in breach of his duties, diverted and used public moneys and in particular moneys intended for use at the Princess Margaret Hospital, for the illegal and unlawful purpose of paying for the transportation of supporters in the Diaspora to travel to Dominica to vote.”

Hillary Shillingford
Hillary Shillingford

These allegations are not only completely false , disc hones and lies manufactured by you, but are premised on a factual impossibility,” the lawyers said in a letter to Shillingford.

In an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Astaphan said the Prime Minister has now decided on “zero-tolerance”.

“The Prime Minister of  the Commonwealth of Dominica has decided that after many years of tolerance and patience and non-stop smear campaign against him by the leader of the United Workers Party and his supporters and members that he appoints through various commissions  – he has decided on zero tolerance on matters such as this.”

Astaphan said the Prime Minister had no alternative to instruct his legal team to write Shillingford and a case will be filed in a matter of days

“This foolishness must stop – this prostitution of the freedom of the media, freedom of press and freedom of speech that you can use it as a platform to manufacture lies ad spread fake news and false news repeatedly has to stop. – somebody has to take action , and we are moving forward,” Astaphan said.

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 Khemraj Ramjattan

Twenty two inmates from gutted prison granted bail – driver abducted by escapees found

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jul. 11, CMC – Twenty two prisoners who were remanded to the Georgetown Prison were granted bail on Monday as a means of easing the congestion in the penal system.

The prisoners who were behind bars for minor non-violent offences were offered bail  as six Magistrates held special bail hearing at the Lusignan Prison, where hundreds of prisoners were taken following Sunday’s devastating fire and prison break at the Georgetown prison.

Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan told reporters that other major decisions  will include the relocation of over 1,000  prisoners from the Lusignan facility.

 Khemraj Ramjattan
Khemraj Ramjattan

He said the prisoners have been in open spaces even as efforts are afoot to make them comfortable until they can be transferred to the Timerhi, New Amsterdam or Mazaruni prisons.

Ramjattan acknowledged that the inmates are still exposed to the elements but said that tents and temporary accommodation are being established.

He added that on Monday, the Civil Defence Commission delivered tents, water and food items to the prisoners .

Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud also promised that the prisoners at Lusignan will see significant improvement within the next 24hrs.

“There are five that are still at large, four of the five we have confirmed their identities and we are still to confirm the identity of the fifth person, we had information that has been partially confirmed of one escapee sighting in Georgetown” he said.

Meanwhile, a 22-year-old man who was reportedly kidnapped by four of the prison escapees on Sunday afternoon and forced to drive them away from the prison, has been found alive and safe.

According to police reports Matthew Shivtahal was found late Monday by investigators.

He was questioned by Police then taken for medical checks at a city hospital. He had no serious injuries according to relatives.

His mother, in an interview with News Source Guyana said she received a call from the police just after 10 pm (local time) on Monday.

“I am thankful, very thankful. That is my only child so I am very happy he is alive and well”, the mother said.

On Sunday, a major fire engulfed the prison during a jail break. Security officials reported that four prisoners who are on the run, are believed to be armed and dangerous.

The security personnel say road blocks have been set up in several parts of the city and a major joint services operation has been launched.

It is suspected that there might have been a number of casualties as a result of the fire.

It was just after 4:00pm (local time)  on Sunday that fire was seen in one of the sections of the jailhouse just after reports surfaced about the prison break.

The prison was built to accommodate just over 600 inmates but for several years, it has found itself overcrowded by more than 400 inmates.

At the time of Sunday’s jailbreak and fire, there were 1018 prisoners at the facility.


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Knights disappearing from Montserrat, extradited from the US to serve jail time

On  June 27, 2017 Sean Knights a Guyanese national who had been living in Montserrat appeared before High Court charged on two counts count rape, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, the offenses having occurred in 2013.

High Court Judge, Justice QC Ian Morley sentenced Knights to a total of five and a half years in prison, two days later in presence of a selected nine-member jury. Knights was represented by Attorney Lawrence Daniel while the prosecution team comprised Acting Director of Public Prosecution Kenroy Hyman and the Kristen Taylor-Hilton.

Knight’s who had pleaded not guilty to both counts, during cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, deliberated his attorney and Mr. Daniel who then made an application to the court where the second indictment was read over to Knights who then pleaded guilty to the charge.

AS a result of acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Hyman offered no evidence in relation to the first count.

But, before passing sentence Justice Morley was advised that there was another pending matter involving Mr. Knights where he was given a suspended sentence on a wounding charge in 2013 by Justice Gilford. Acting DPP Hyman revealed that the sentence was breached as Knights did not adhere to the directives given by Justice Gilford and during the period September to October 2013 Knights left the territory without permission as such he had to be resentenced.

Knights was subsequently located in the United States where he was held in prison for a period of seven months before being extradited to Montserrat on January 11 this year, he was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison since. In passing sentence Justice Morley, having listened to the facts of the wounding matter and the mitigation presented by Mr Daniel passed the following judgment; For outstanding wounding charge – three years imprisonment, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor – three years imprisonment, both to run concurrently.

Justice Morley in sentencing said he took into account the time spent in custody in the United States into consideration, and awarded a reduction in the sentence from six years to five and a half years.

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court rul

Teenager among four to stand trial for murder

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 28, CMC – A 13-year-old girl and her sister who claimed that they were verbally, physically and sexually abused by their 64-year-old father, have been committed to stand trial for his murder.

court rulThe two girls were among four persons who have been committed to stand trial in the death of Roger Manikram, a pensioner, on April 3, 2016 at Coldingen Railway Embankment.

Magistrate Alisha George Tuesday committed the 13-year-old, her 19-year-old sister Nalini Manikram, as well as 22-year-old Veeran Dias Lall, and 24-year-old taxi driver, Devon Browne following the end of the preliminary Inquiry, which was conducted in camera.

In 2016, that the media here had reported that the body of the 64-year-old man had been wrapped in construction plastic and dumped it on the Railway Embankment at Coldingen after he had been killed in the kitchen at his home.

The girls had initially claimed that they were verbally and physically abused by the man and also later claimed that they were also sexually assaulted by him.

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court rul

Former prosecutor jailed for 17 years

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 28, CMC – A former police prosecutor has been jailed for 17 years with hard labour after he was found guilty of raping a then 17-year-old girl who had gone to the police station to make a report 16 years ago.

Justice Althea Alexis-Windsor, sitting in the San Fernando Second Criminal Court, south of here, Wednesday, said aggravating factors in the case against Harry Ramlochan were that the accused was a person of trust being a police prosecutor and acting sergeant and there was a level of vulnerability as the girl and her mother had gone to make a report about domestic violence.

court rulThe judge said she considered the convict’s age and child’s age at the time of the attack, and the fact that it was her first sexual encounter.

Prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal  had told the court  attack had severely scarred the victim for the rest of her life, saying she hoped that through her resilience, the victim will be able to overcome the effects of the incident.

Jurors took 90 minutes to find Ramlochan, who was 50 years old at the time of the crime, guilty of the offence after a month long trial.

The woman told the court that on Saturday May 5, 2001 she went with her mother to the San Fernando police station to make a report that her mother had been beaten by a relative.

Ramlochan took the mother inside to make the report and then said he wanted to take a statement from her daughter. Her mother advised her to go with him.

In her evidence the victim said that Ramlochan took her to a dormitory where he asked her if she had ever had sex. She told him she was waiting until marriage.

She said Ramlochan then tried to hug and kiss her and left the station, and on his return offered her a drink of rum but she also refused. She also refused the money Ramlochan offered her when he took her to the Courts and Process Office.

The court heard the police officer became upset and closed the door and pushed her against a cabinet and forcefully kissed her and bit her lips. He then pushed her against a wall and pulled down her pants and underwear. He pushed her on a sponge on the ground where he raped her.

But in his defence, Ramlochan denied having sex with the then 17-year-old. He said that on the day she came to the police station she insisted that he arrest her father.

He said when she arrived at the station, her lip was already swollen and she held a towel over her mouth. He said she told him that while her father was beating her mother, he slapped her on her mouth. He said he changed the money to give to the then teen because he felt sorry for her after she told him her father never gave them money.

In his plea for mitigation attorney Chris Ramlal urged the judge to consider his client’s age, that he had an unblemished disciplinary record since he joined the police service in 1972.

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Authorities in Antigua seize more than a million dollars in illegal drugs


ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jun 26, CMC – The National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) says it has seized more than one million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) in illegal drugs and detained six people, including two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, during a 24 hour exercise over the weekend.

In a statement, the ONDCP said that 295 pounds of marijuana had been seized during the operation and that the six men, including nationals from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica, are most likely to appear in court on Tuesday.

The ONDCP said that in the first operation in the All Saints Villiage, a St. Vincent and the Grenadines national as well as an Antiguan male were nabbed in the process of transporting 103.25 pounds of marijuana with a street value of EC$413,000.

It said the Jamaican was nabbed during the second operation in the Mock Pond Area where he was held with 34.8 pounds of compressed marijuana and a small quantity of marijuana seedlings with a street value estimated at EC$139,200.

The authorities said that in the third drug operation in the Sea View Farm area, three nationals were detained after 157.8 pounds of compressed cannabis with an estimated street value of EC$631, 200 was found in their possession.

The ONCP reported that all the drugs seized during the operations appears to have originated out of South America and that while drugs originating from South America are usually from Venezuela or Columbia, investigations will continue to determine the exact country from where the drugs came.


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haiti children drugs

Haiti worried at abuse of illegal drugs in schools and homes


PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jun 25, CMC – The National Commission for the Fight Against Drugs (CONALD), says it is perturbed at the “appalling” abuse of illegal drugs in schools, homes and in the country in general.

Haiti is joining the international community in observing the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and CONALD co-ordinator Lener Renauld said the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country is facing an uphill battle to deal with the drug epidemic here.

He said while the Commission does not intend to have any high profile activities to mark the occasion of it wishes to “invite everyone, in order to counter, as far as possible, the overwhelming consequences that strangle the Haitian youth”.

He said CONALD is “appalled” by the “abuse of drugs, in our schools, our universities, in the homes as in the streets” but it is nonetheless assuring the population of the fight “in accordance with the priorities established by the Head of State and in accordance with the general policy of the Government”.

The Commission said it welcomes the efforts of the law enforcement institutions working together to “stem the scourge of drugs and calls for the involvement of Haitian society, with a view to a citizen mobilization for a solidary and responsible contribution.

“It should be recalled that the World Drug Report (2017), published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), highlights new forms of correlation between the global cycle of drug trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism,” the Commission noted.

Renauld said he wanted to give the international community the assurance that Haiti would continue the fight against illegal drugs “and will actively commit itself in accordance with agreements on combating drugs, money laundering and the financing of terrorism”.


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