WAS it a loan, or was it campaign financing?
This is the question Justice Frank Seepersad will rule on when he gives his decision in a lawsuit filed by UNC supporter Krishna Lalla in his million-dollar claim against former UNC chairman and People’s Partnership minister Jack Warner.
Real Time Systems Ltd – the company from which Lalla secured the “loan” – filed a lawsuit against Warner, trading as Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, Renraw Investments, CCAM and Company. The lawsuit seeks to retrieve the “loan” to the former FIFA vice president, made before the general election campaign in 2007. According to the lawsuit, the loan amounted to $1.5 million. Lalla sought to establish that he and Warner reached an agreement over the five tranches of payments, between October 9, 2007 and November 1, 2007 for repayment by February, 28, 2008. The trial began before Seepersad on Monday when Warner, former UNC treasurer Chandresh Sharma and Lalla testified. Lalla testified from Panama via video conferencing. According to his lawsuit, he is a supporter of the UNC and has been since 1989. He has also said at no time had he arranged financing for any election campaign. Lalla said he was introduced to Warner at some point, and grew to trust him. He said Warner approached him in August 2007, asking for a loan for his company, and he agreed to assist.
Lalla, who described himself as a self-made businessman, who founded Super Industrial Services (SIS) in 1979, said Warner told him he needed to raise $20 million to assist his business, which was, at the time, having liquidity problems. He said Warner was prepared to execute a promissory note and provide a charge over the Centre of Excellence and promised to repay the money by February 2008, from a payment of US$10 million he expected to receive from FIFA.
Lalla said he agreed to lend Warner the money, and approached a number of businesses to come up with the money. He said Real Time agreed to lend $1.5 million. Lalla said Warner asked for the cheques to be made payable to Centre of Excellence. Five cheques were collected between October and November 2007. He said at no time did he offer to finance the UNC election campaign for $20 million or any other sum, since he was in no position financially to do so. Warner, in defence, said there were plans to remove UNC leader Basdeo Panday from the leadership position and, at a meeting, he told Lalla of the challenge to obtain financiers because of Panday’s unwillingness to step down as leader.
Warner said several businesses were selected to receive financing from Lalla to assist the party in the 2007 general election. He has denied it was a loan.
In support of its claim, Real Time’s attorney Neil Bisnath said the onus was on Warner to prove it was not a loan. Asked the same question by the judge about the need to “mask” the alleged donation as a business transaction, Bisnath insisted it was not campaign financing. otherwise it would have been made directly to the party. Also representing Real Time is attorney Lydia Mendonca. Asha Watkins- Monteserrin appears with Scotland for Warner.