Former government minister Marlene McDonald has made her first court appearance since being charged with corruption, last month.
The Port-of-Spain South MP, her long-time companion Michael Carew, Wayne Anthony, Victor McEachrane and Edgar Zepherine appeared before Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, yesterday morning.
Since McDonald was being treated at the St Clair Medical Centre when her co-accused first appeared in court on August 12, Busby-Earle-Caddle read the seven charges she is facing to her.
During the hearing, McDonald and Carew’s lawyer Pamela Elder, SC, complained about what she said was the police’s failure to disclose any evidence in the case over the past few weeks.
After consulting with lead investigator Senior Supt Totaram Dookhie, of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB), Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby informed the court that investigators needed a minimum of three months to file and serve the statements of the 22 witnesses in the case. Busby also claimed that the number of witnesses may increase before the eventual start of the preliminary inquiry.
While she did not challenge the claims, Elder suggested that police disclose the statements in batches so that she and the other defence attorneys could begin to prepare their cases. Busby-Earle-Caddle then adjourned the case to November 4 for another status hearing.
The courtroom was packed to capacity as a large group of McDonald’s friends and supporters accompanied her for the hearing.
McDonald, Carew, Anthony, McEachrane, Zephyrine are facing a total of 49 charges over attempting to defraud the government by allegedly procuring funds for Carew’s Calabar Foundation, under the guise that it was a charity.
McDonald, 61, is facing seven charges—two for conspiracy to defraud, four for misbehaving in public office and one for money laundering.
Carew, 72, is facing eight charges-three for conspiracy to defraud and five money laundering.
Zepherine, 75, the former chairman of the National Commission for Self Help, is facing 27 money laundering charges and one for conspiracy to defraud.
McEachrane is facing three fraud charges and three for money laundering, while Anthony only has one money laundering charge.
Both McEachrane and Anthony are contractors.
The offences are alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2009, but the police investigation only began in 2016.
Since being charged, McDonald has been removed as Public Administration Minister and deputy political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
She remains as Port-of-Spain South MP.
McDonald and Carew left the courthouse in a chauffeur-driven SUV and did not stop to speak to media personnel, who camped outside to try to interview her.
Speaking briefly with reporters, McDonald’s constituent Rolston Baboolal, who was part of her entourage, said he was disappointed with the police’s delay in disclosing the evidence.
“The way the evidence started, I seeing win, win, win,” Baboolal said.
McDonald and Carew are also being represented by Owen Hinds Jr.
Ian Brooks is representing Zepherine, while Anthony is being represented by Larry Williams.