Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s $63 billion budget which “seeks to re-establish fiscal discipline” came as no surprise to political analysts Dr Bishnu Ragoonath and Dr Maukesh Basdeo.
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Disputed Range Rover heads back to UK
As the Range Rover controversy makes headlines in the United Kingdom, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says within a week or two, he will make arrangements to have the stolen vehicle shipped back to the UK owners. However, before doing so, Ramlogan said, he will give ILP deputy political leader Anna Deonarine an opportunity to explain how she ended up buying the stolen Range Rover.
A report headlined “Paradise island leader bought Range Rover stolen in Birmingham” was carried online on the Birmingham Mail’s Web site—www.birminghammail.co.uk—on Friday. The story said the Range Rover was snatched from Birmingham on May 15, 2008, by someone who had hired it using false personal details. It was taken from Lombard Vehicle Management and sent abroad in December of that year.
Lombard is trying to get it back from the T&T authorities and has hired Barry Hancock, a specialist in investigating the international trafficking of stolen vehicles. The report quoted a source who said, “Local authorities were un-co-operative from day one.” But in a telephone interview yesterday, Ramlogan revealed he had been in contact with Hancock. Asked why the vehicle has not yet been handed over, Ramlogan said, “We cannot just give back the vehicle just so. We have to do our investigations.”
He said Hancock gave the T&T authorities a file containing details of the transaction. Hancock came to Trinidad two months ago to try to retrieve the vehicle. “We have the relevant information. Hancock has provided a detailed statement and we have the relevant information from the side of the UK owners. What we do not have is any statement from Deonarine,” Ramlogan said.
He added, “The expose carried in yesterday’s Guardian has fortified the concerns about the suspicious circumstances surrounding this transaction, as it would appear that Deonarine-Rampersad’s statement that she did not import this vehicle is at odds with the documentary evidence, which show not one but two import licences were granted to her company for the importation of two Range Rovers.
“The second licence was granted in a breathtaking record-breaking space of one day, after a handwritten note was submitted asking for the first licence to be amended to facilitate the importation of this second Range Rover, which turned out to be a stolen vehicle.” Asked when the vehicle will be shipped back, Ramlogan said, “I will give Deonarine an opportunity to respond to the letter from Karl Hudson-Phillips’ chambers. She should be given an opportunity to present her case and thus far, she has not done so.
“I do not know if she intends to dispute the claim made by the original owners of the vehicle at the time that it was stolen from the United Kingdom. Due process must be followed and we will wait on her response.” He noted, “This is critical in light of the fact that she failed and refused to give a statement to the police for over two years to explain and provide relevant information regarding how she came to be in possession of this stolen vehicle.”
Vehicle supplier vanishes
Ramlogan added that Nadeem Baksh, who is listed as the supplier of the vehicle, has vanished into thin air. “The only person who had contact with Baksh is Deonarine. The police want to ask her banking details and trace this fellow. “Even if she doesn’t respond, within a week or two, that vehicle will be shipped back to London,” Ramlogan vowed.
The T&T Guardian tried to contact Hancock at his office in the United Kingdom but there was no reply except for an automated voice message and he has not yet replied to an e-mail request for information. Hancock works for BR International Ltd, based in Hove, Sussex, which has specialised in the field of vehicle theft recovery and investigation since 1987. Its services are employed by numerous insurance companies and finance Houses in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Deonarine, a lawyer, has maintained that she was a victim of the stolen-car racket and disclosed that she wrote to Ramlogan and head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), Gillian Lucky, appealing for an intervention to resolve the matter speedily. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard earlier this year cleared Deonarine-Rampersad of criminal wrongdoing in relation to the purchase of the vehicle. Deonarine-Rampersad has since threatened legal action and has referred the matter to her attorneys.
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