|Vindra’s husband: I paid a bribe |
By JADA LOUTOO Tuesday, April 15 2014
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RENNIE COOLMAN and Vindra Naipaul-Coolman...
RENNIE COOLMAN, husband of murdered businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman yesterday admitted paying $75,000 to a woman to ensure he would not be charged with his wife’s murder.
Coolman’s testimony resumed more than a week after he began giving evidence for the prosecution in its case against 12 men, charged with Naipaul-Coolman’s murder.
On December 19, 2006, Naipaul-Coolman, 52, was kidnapped from the driveway of her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home. A ransom demand was eventually made for her safe release and some of it was paid, but she was not freed. Her body was never found.
Coolman, who last testified two Thursdays ago, admitted he did nothing to help his wife on the night she was kidnapped, because he was “scared” when he saw a masked gunman. His testimony came to an abrupt end when prosecutors objected to a question asked by defence attorney Kwesi Bekoe, who was representing Shervon Peters. Peters has since fired Bekoe. Bekoe however remains amicus curiae (a friend of the court) by order of trial judge Justice Malcolm Holdip to treat with issues relating to law in Peters’ case. Peters will now represent himself and direct cross examination of witnesses as he sees fit.
At the last evidential hearing, Bekoe had asked if Coolman ever paid anything to anyone who represented themselves to be from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Before Coolman could answer, the objection was raised.When the matter resumed yesterday, Coolman was again asked the question by attorney Mario Merritt, who represents Keida Garcia.
Merritt: Did you ever pay anyone to bribe the DPP and Israel Khan SC, not to charge you for the murder of your wife?
Coolman: I was approached by an individual...a woman.
Coolman said he was approached by the woman in April, 2007. She pretended to be from the office of the DPP and he paid her $75,000 to ensure that he was not charged with his wife’s murder. “I did pay, yes,” he said.
Earlier he had been asked by Merritt if he ever feared he would be charged for the kidnapping and murder of Naipaul-Coolman. “No. I was never in fear,” he said in response. Coolman said he paid the money out of fear, but not out of fear of being charged.
Merritt: You did nothing wrong in respect of your wife?
Coolman: No. I did not.
Merritt: You did nothing wrong yet you parted with $75,000
Later on the attorney further questioned Coolman on the issue. He admitted to attempting to bribe the DPP and Senior Counsel Khan. Of the $75,000 paid to the woman, $25,000 was for a bribe to Khan while $50,000 was to bribe the DPP.
Merritt: When you paid that money, you knew that you were doing something wrong. Something dishonest.
Coolman: I knew it was wrong
Merritt: So you were prepared to do that to save yourself but was not prepared to save your wife?
Coolman said it was never required of him to put money for his wife’s ransom. He said it was his wife’s family, the Naipauls, who paid the ransom as requested.
Merritt: That was your wife
Coolman: That was their sister
Coolman said the demand for a ransom was never requested of him but the kidnappers kept asking for Naipaul-Coolman’s brother Anand and father and did not want to negotiate with him.
During his testimony which was fraught with small squabbles among attorneys and objections being raised, Coolman said he was not charged for the murder or kidnapping of his wife or attempting to bribe the DPP.
He said when the woman whom he paid the $75,000 came back for more and demanded $200,000 from him, he decided to contact his brother-in-law Ryan Naipaul, who in turn contacted a police officer.
Merritt: You paid $75,000 and the lady came back for more.
Coolman: She said she wanted $200,000
He denied calling his brother-in-law after realising that the woman was ‘bluffing’ and had nothing on him.
Merritt: Did she have anything on you?
Merritt: Why did you not pay the $200,000.
Coolman: I decided this was a major fraud... I realised that the problem would continue and I had to take some form of action.
Merritt: You didn’t want to part with your money. You didn’t want to end it because you were innocent of anything but that it would continue and continue.
Coolman: I decided to make the call because I didn’t want it to continue.
He said he realised he made the decision to pay as an “emotional” one. “My emotions made me do what I did,” he said, explaining that the woman told him that he would be charged innocently, by police, without evidence.
Merritt: You were told that you would be charged innocently without evidence?
Coolman: That’s right.
Coolman later admitted to not knowing if his wife at the time was outside bleeding, dead or unconscious.
Coolman said he didn’t call any of the police stations, including Chaguanas, Couva, Homicide or 999, but called a friend of his step-daughter who gave him the number to the AKS.
Merritt: Somehow the person knew you wanted AKS
Coolman said he told the person what had happened outside the house and he was given a number.
“I called the number. I didn’t know who or where that was,” he said, insisting that he did not tell the person his wife had been kidnapped, only what had transpired minutes earlier on December 19, 2006.
Another objection was taken by the prosecution when Merritt sought to elicit from Coolman if he was part of the his wife’s murder and kidnapping. Jurors were put out of the court while the judge heard legal arguments in their absence.
Coolman was further asked about a book written about Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping and murder, of which he wrote the first two chapters, detailing his account of what occurred on December 19, 2006.
He admitted that some of what was said in the two chapters was not a full account of what happened that night, as he was accused by Merritt of lying to the court and changing his evidence.
Coolman strenuously denied being “deliberately unhelpful and vague” to assist the police to find the perpetrators of his wife’s kidnapping and murder.
He also admitted to having lost the statement he gave to police when questioned about inconsistencies in his testimony he gave at the magistrates’ court and at the high court as it related to what he saw on the night his wife was kidnapped.
Coolman further denied that he “made it difficult” for the police to ‘find the real perpetrators’ of the crime.
“Totally incorrect,” he told Merritt. During this line of questioning, Coolman said he was not trying to convict anyone.
“I am not here to convict anyone,” he said.
Merritt had to be cautioned by the judge to “stop fishing” for answers and making statements as he began to question Coolman about the accused men before the court.
Merritt: Now that you are aware that these are not your co-conspirators....
Justice Holdip: No, Mr Merritt. Please stop fishing. You are making statements. Stop making statements or lectures.
The trial came to an abrupt end after another objection was raised as it related to a question previously asked by Bekoe.Coolman returns today to resume of testimony.