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Eric Williams walks free

By ONIKA JAMES Tuesday, January 1 2008

click on pic to zoom in

FORMER Energy Minister Eric Williams was yesterday freed of seven corruption charges.

In dismissing the charges, Port-of-Spain Senior Magistrate Lucina Cadenas-Ragoonanan said the evidence against Williams — a former PNM MP and Minister — by the State’s main witness — Dhansam Dhansook — was “tenuous, vague and at worst, unbelievable.”

The former Energy Minister literally received a New Years gift when magistrate Cardenas- Ragoonanan ordered him to stand in court and then she dismissed all of the charges brought against him.

“My life and character were damaged globally because of my senior position on the world energy body. I had to answer to everyone on that committee. At this time, I thank God, my mother and my supporters who have been with me throughout,” Williams said outside the courthouse.

Earlier, sitting in the Fourth Court, Magistrate Cardenas-Ragoonanan cited several inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, the most crucial being that the evidence of its main witness was “unreliable and inconsistent.”

During his testimony, Dhansook, a PNM Councillor and contractor with Terra Seis Siesmic Surveys Limited, told the Court that he was at Balisier House when Williams demanded payments from him.

However, a few moments later, Dhansook said he was at a Christmas party he held for his staff and that he clearly remembered because it was two days before his birthday. Yesterday, Cardenas-Ragoonanan said, “The fact that Mr Dhansook testified he was in two places at the same time when the plan was hatched, sent red flags of uncertainty. It was impossible that he could be at Balisier House and at a staff party in Rio Claro, if by virtue of geography alone.”

The Magistrate added, “I find the evidence tenuous...tenuous indeed, vague, uncertain and definitely not enough for any jury to convict on.”

Cardenas-Ragoonanan also ruled that there were several flaws in the allegation itself as there was no documentary evidence to support whether payments were made to Williams. “Mr Dhansook was unable to give specific times and occasions when the payments were allegedly made to Mr Williams, his evidence was tenuous, at worst unbelievable, a jury should not have to speculate. Therefore I find it that no prima facie case can be made out against Mr Williams on Dhansook’s evidence,” the magistrate said.

Standing in the docks, Williams smiled when he was told he was free to go. His mother, who religiously attended all of the court sittings, accompanied him out of the courtroom towards waiting reporters. He expressed relief at being cleared of the charges which hung over his head for one year, 11 months and 22 days.

On whether or not he will be taking legal action against Dhansook, Williams said, “My first priority is repairing my image. I have to speak with my attorneys to decide whether it will be a clear case of forgive and forget or, to take some action.”

Williams spoke about the role of the Integrity Commission and its recommendation was that no charges be laid against him because of a lack of evidence. However, that advice went unheeded and he was still charged. Efforts to reach Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson to ascertain whether or not that recommendation was conveyed to his office, proved futile.

Williams said he was also following the case of his former Government colleague Franklyn Khan who is facing similar charges as those dropped against Williams. “The case against me has been dismissed and I am hopeful that the same would happened for Franklyn Khan,” Williams said.

“I am Eric’s mother and I want to instruct you all who are reporting, that in the same manner you had his name on the internet, on the radio and front page of newspapers, you will do the same now that he has been vindicated of these charges,” Mrs Todd-Williams said.

THE CHARGES

Eric Williams, a former Minister of Energy and Member of Parliament for Port-of-Spain South:



– On a day unknown between January 1, 2003 and February 3, 2003, at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $15,000, in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labour, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between February 4, 2003 and March 4, 2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labour, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between march 4, 2003 and march 31, 2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labor, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between April 1,2003 and May 5,2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labour, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between May 6, 2003 and May 31, 2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labour, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between June 1, 2003 and June 30, 2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labour, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

– On a day unknown between July 1, 2003 and July 31, 2003 at St James, being a Minister of Government of Trinidad and Tobago, a public office, did misconduct himself in the said office by corruptly accepting from Dhansam Dhansook, $10,000 in cash as a reward for having for Dhansook a contract to supply labor, security and transport to Terra Seis Trinidad Limited, a company engaged in seismic surveys in Trinidad and Tobago, contrary to common law.

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