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Sunday 17 November 2019
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Police fail to prosecute PM's friend

A&V's Baksh freed

Attorneys, from left, Michael Rooplal, Prakash Ramadhar, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Insp Billy Ramsundar outside the Siparia Magistrates Court on Monday.
Attorneys, from left, Michael Rooplal, Prakash Ramadhar, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Insp Billy Ramsundar outside the Siparia Magistrates Court on Monday.

AFTER almost two years, police on Monday failed to prosecute A&V Drilling CEO Haniff Nazim Baksh and his son-in-law Billy Ramsundar for assaulting a media photographer and damaging a camera.

Monday was the day a magistrate had set for trial, but neither a single witness nor the two state attorneys assigned to prosecute turned up in court.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, asked presiding magistrate Margaret Alert to dismiss the cases for want of prosecution. Alert, noting the charges had been laid since 2017, but the file only sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions two weeks ago, said the criminal justice must not be made into a mockery.

She told Baksh, 57, a former oil and gas lease operator at the now defunct state-owned Petrotrin, that the charges were dismissed. She also dismissed the charges against Ramsundar, an inspector of police.

Baksh is a close friend of the Prime Minister and his multi-million-dollar claim against Petrotrin for seizing operatorship in the Catshill block will come up for arbitration in November.

Baksh was charged with assaulting Guardian Media Ltd photographer Kristian De Silva on September 15, 2017. Acting Supt Ruthven Hunte of the Professional Standards Bureau charged Ramsundar jointly with Baksh for malicious damage to De Silva’s spectacles.

The charges stemmed from members of the media visiting A&V's stockyard on Nazim Avenue, Penal, and seeking to interview him after Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s release of Petrotrin’s internal "fake oil" report.

When the case was called, state attorney Ambay Ramkelawan, told Alert she was holding brief for the state attorneys. She said the witnesses were not present and pleaded for a final adjournment.

Maharaj reminded Alert that despite his objections to more than seven adjournments, she had granted the prosecution six further months and fixed Monday for trial.

“They don’t have even a witness in court today (Monday). The prosecution is making a mockery of the orders of the court,” Maharaj said. Neither De Silva nor a representative of Guardian Media Ltd was in court.

Appearing with Maharaj were attorneys Prakash Ramadhar and Michael Rooplal.

Alert said the prosecution could not provide a reasonable ground, adding that the judicial system had criminal procedure rules which must not be made into a mockery. She asked Baksh and Ramsundar to stand and told them the charges against them were dismissed.

As they emerged from the courthouse, friends and well-wishers congratulated Baksh and urged him to fight his detractors.

On their behalf, Maharaj said, “Mr Baksh and Mr Ramsundar attended court on each and every occasion for two years and four months. We came here to start the case, but the prosecution was not ready, and has not been ready despite the many adjournments.”

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