Trinidad Minister and husband in court today to face corruption charges

Flashback September 23, 2015: Housing Minister Marlene McDonald and husband Michael Carew in the Parliament chamber after the swearing in ceremony of the new Government.

(Trinidad Guardian) Af­ter four days of be­ing in po­lice cus­tody, the rul­ing PNM’s deputy leader Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald and her com­mon-law hus­band Michael Carew were charged last night.

And Gov­ern­ment is­sued a state­ment at 12.40 am, say­ing Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley will be ad­vis­ing Pres­i­dent Paula- Mae Weekes to re­voke Mc­Don­ald’s ap­point­ment as Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter. A new min­is­ter will be an­nounced, the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­istry stat­ed.

Gov­ern­ment said the State had been re­li­ably in­formed that based on the ad­vice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, the Po­lice Ser­vice was charg­ing Mc­Don­ald and oth­ers with sev­er­al of­fences.

Po­lice sources said Mc­Don­ald faces as many as sev­en charges in­clud­ing al­leged mis­be­hav­iour in pub­lic of­fice, con­spir­a­cy to de­fraud and mon­ey laun­der­ing.

Carew and three oth­er peo­ple al­so face sev­er­al charges aris­ing out of the al­leged dis­burse­ment of state funds from the Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment Min­istry to “help” at-risk youths.

The three oth­ers charged in­clude Vic­tor McEachrane— who was list­ed as a di­rec­tor of the Cal­abar Foun­da­tion, along with Carew— for­mer Self-Help Com­mis­sion chair­man Edgar Zephyrine and a con­trac­tor Wayne An­tho­ny.

Po­lice sources said they tracked pub­lic mon­ey which al­leged­ly end­ed up in per­sons’ pri­vate bank ac­counts. Charges were be­ing for­mu­lat­ed up to mid­night.

All five are ex­pect­ed to ap­pear in Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trates’ Court this morn­ing.

The ini­tial Cal­abar Foun­da­tion mat­ter had been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the po­lice’s Fraud Squad since March 2016 af­ter Fix­in’ T&T’s head Kirk Wait­he re­quest­ed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the es­tab­lish­ment and run­ning of the Foun­da­tion, monies paid to the en­ti­ty and its op­er­a­tions.

At that time, then-act­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Stephen Williams wrote Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley in­di­cat­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been launched in­to the Cal­abar Foun­da­tion.

Ul­ti­mate­ly, in­ves­ti­ga­tions were ex­pand­ed to probe the al­leged dis­tri­b­u­tion of monies to or­gan­i­sa­tions, to “help the needy.”

The three- year probe peaked last Thurs­day when po­lice ex­e­cut­ed a search war­rant at Mc­Don­ald’s Mara­cas, St Joseph home in the wee hours of the morn­ing.

She and Carew were held for ques­tion­ing, ar­rest­ed and tak­en in­to po­lice cus­tody. In­for­ma­tion was tak­en from the house. Mc­Don­ald’s cell phone and com­put­er were con­fis­cat­ed

Over the next three days, both were ques­tioned for sev­er­al hours at a time, sep­a­rate­ly. They were tak­en to the Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards’ Bu­reau Port-of-Spain build­ing for ques­tion­ing last Fri­day by As­sis­tant Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice To­taram Dookhie (for­mer Fraud Squad head) who’d spear­head­ed the probe. They were lat­er tak­en back to St Joseph Po­lice sta­tion.

Po­lice had al­so de­tained oth­er peo­ple— in­clud­ing con­trac­tors—for ques­tion­ing. In­ter­ro­ga­tions were com­plet­ed last Sat­ur­day and Mc­Don­ald and Carew re­mained in sep­a­rate ar­eas at St Joseph Po­lice Sta­tion most of yes­ter­day while de­ci­sions were made by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions. (DPP).

Sources said po­lice had in­formed the trio of the charges while they were at St Joseph Sta­tion. They added, Mc­Don­ald lost her com­po­sure when the news was de­liv­ered.

Last night, Carew was the first to be brought to the PSB of­fice. He ar­rived at 9 .10 pm in an un­marked po­lice ve­hi­cle. Dressed in ca­su­al cloth­ing, Carew was es­cort­ed in­to the build­ing. He wasn’t hand­cuffed.

Mc­Don­ald ar­rived short­ly af­ter at 9.27 pm, in a sil­ver SUV dri­ven by a male of­fi­cer. Dressed in a pink top and black pants, with a black shawl over her shoul­der, she was es­cort­ed by a fe­male of­fi­cer who shield­ed her from cam­eras.

Mc­Don­ald who looked ex­haust­ed strug­gled to climb the build­ing’s steps and was as­sist­ed by the fe­male of­fi­cer.

Oth­er ac­cused peo­ple ar­rived af­ter her, up to 11 pm. ACP Dookhie ar­rived at 10.46 pm.

El­der told me­dia the arrange­ment had been that Mc­Don­ald would have left the St Joseph Po­lice Sta­tion at 7 pm to get to PSB’s of­fice. But Mc­Don­ald didn’t ar­rive there un­til 9.27 pm. El­der her­self didn’t emerge from the PSB build­ing af­ter she went in.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials hint­ed a state­ment on the fu­ture of Mc­Don­ald’s Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion post is ex­pect­ed to­day. The re­vo­ca­tion will be her third dis­missal in this term.

While Mc­Don­ald had been vis­it­ed by sev­er­al min­is­te­r­i­al col­leagues in re­cent days – up to yes­ter­day- the lone Gov­ern­ment pres­ence near the PSB build­ing was Pub­lic Util­i­ties Min­is­ter Robert Le, Hunte.

He was there for about an hour be­fore Mc­Don­ald ar­rived. Le Hunte said he’d al­so vis­it­ed her at St Joseph Po­lice sta­tion ear­li­er in the day.

Speak­ing in a sad tone, he told Guardian Me­dia, “I’m here sole­ly to lend (Mc­Don­ald) moral sup­port, I’ve known Mar­lene as long as I’ve been in the PNM- for over 20 years – so I’m pro­vid­ing sup­port to my col­league. Noth­ing else.

“This is a very emo­tion­al­ly trau­mat­ic sit­u­a­tion, I feel very much for my col­league. I can just imag­ine the trau­ma she’s go­ing through. The fact it’s tak­ing so long is a bit dis­turb­ing,” he said, speak­ing be­fore Mc­Don­ald ar­rived.

Dis­miss­ing per­cep­tion that he was there to take Mc­Don­ald’s bail, he added, “I vis­it­ed her at St Joseph Po­lice Sta­tion at 10 am (yes­ter­day) and spent two hours with her. I brought her some snacks and tried to pro­vide moral sup­port. She was in good spir­its and I was hap­py to help.”

“We chat­ted, just reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion – noth­ing about the mat­ter – I just want­ed to keep her spir­its up. Mar­lene has been a good friend and col­league of mine. We’re a team and if one mem­ber of a team is hurt­ing, the right thing is to of­fer moral sup­port,”

Le Hunte re­mained out­side the PSB build­ing af­ter mid­night. Mc­Don­ald was al­so vis­it­ed ear­li­er in the day by Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Don­na Cox. Cox said af­ter her vis­it, she left Mc­Don­ald with the words to trust in God and “talk to him.

Oth­er col­leagues, Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh and D’Abadie/ O’Meara MP An­cil An­toine, who al­so came to see Mc­Don­ald, were al­so at St Joseph Po­lice Sta­tion.

Op­po­si­tion MP Bar­ry Padarath al­so said last night, “The Prime Min­is­ter must now act to re­move Ms Mc­Don­ald from the Cab­i­net and she must re­sign her Port-of-Spain South seat. We’ve seen prece­dent on this from the tenure of for­mer prime min­is­ters (Kam­la) Per­sad-Bisses­sar and (Bas­deo) Pan­day and it’s in keep­ing with the West­min­ster sys­tem.”

“On a hu­man lev­el I feel a great de­gree of con­cern for her, but as pub­lic of­fi­cials, we owe a greater du­ty to T&T and the peo­ple who elect us all.”