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Coolman: I paid $75,000 bribe

By Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

RENNIE COOLMAN, the husband of murdered businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, yesterday admitted during the trial into his wife’s death that he paid $75,000 to a woman who claimed to be from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for him to not be charged with her murder.

Coolman said he had no role to play in Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping and murder in December 2006, but still made the payment after becoming fearful he could have been wrongly arrested and prosecuted. 

And despite having an “excellent relationship” with her, Coolman said based on the advice of Anti-Kidnapping Squad (AKS) officers, he never attempted to use any part of the $400,000 he had in a joint bank account with Naipaul-Coolman to pay her abductors to have her released.

This was part of his testimony under cross-examination by defence attorney Mario Merritt that was heard by a 12-member jury and six alternate jurors before Justice Malcolm Holdip at the Second Criminal Court of the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain where 12 men are on trial for her murder.

It was his second day of cross-examination after giving his evidence-in-chief two Thursdays ago.

Following are some of the questions put to the witness and the responses given.

Merritt: Were you ever in fear of being charged with the murder of your wife?

Coolman: No, I was never afraid of that.

Merritt: Did you ever pay a woman to bribe the DPP and (lead defence attorney at the trial) Israel Khan (SC) to not be charged with the murder?

Coolman: I was approached by a woman in April 2007 who pretended to be an individual from the DPP’s office.

Merritt: And you paid it?

Coolman: Yes it was paid.

Merritt: Was it normal of you to pay money to a total stranger?

Coolman: I gave money to a lot of people already.

Merritt: So it was a donation?

Coolman: I did not say that.

Merritt: It was for you to not be charged?

Coolman: Yes it was.

Merritt: You had nothing to do with the kidnapping and murder of your wife? You did nothing wrong?

Coolman: No I did not.

Merritt: You did nothing wrong and yet you parted with your $75,000?

Coolman: Yes.

Coolman said the woman who pretended to be from the DPP’s office had contacted him by phone, after which he met her along Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, opposite the Hall of Justice.

He said at the time, he was unaware Khan’s office was located near to where he met with the woman.

Coolman said subsequent to the payment being made, he was again approached by the woman who said she wanted $200,000. After this, Coolman said he realised he was being defrauded by the woman and decided to make no further payments, saying that the first payment was “an emotional approach to the matter”.

He said he knew paying the money was wrong, but denied paying the money to save himself and not Naipaul-Coolman.

“But that is your wife,” said Merritt. 

Coolman responded: “That was (the Naipauls) sister. They (the abductors) did not want to negotiate with me. They wanted to speak with Anand (one of Naipaul-Coolman’s brothers).

He said an agreement had been made between Naipaul-Coolman’s other brother Ryan and the abductors for a ransom to be paid.

Coolman was further questioned by the attorney in relation to his actions on the night of December 19, 2006, when his wife was kidnapped from their Lange Park, Chaguanas, home.

Coolman said on that night, he saw a masked gunman in the driveway after his wife arrived home. After seeing this, he said he went further into the house to get away from the view of the kidnapper(s).

After doing so, Coolman said he heard three gunshots followed by another three “maybe one or two or three minutes after”.

It was after hearing the shots, Coolman said he went into the kitchen area and looked through the window and into the driveway but neither the masked man nor his wife were anywhere in sight.

Coolman said he then contacted a friend of Naipaul-Coolman’s daughter Risha Ali, who was a police officer and gave him a brief description of what had taken place. The officer he said, then gave him a number for the AKS, which he later called.

“You heard shots and you did not go outside, so you did not know if your wife was on the ground bleeding or dead or if she was robbed but the first agency you called was the Anti-Kidnapping Squad? You did not call 999 or the Chaguanas Police Station?,” asked Merritt.

“The person gave me a number and I called that number,” Coolman responded.

He further testified that it was customary for him to wait until his wife’s arrival home before having dinner, but on that night he did not.

Initially, Coolman said Naipaul-Coolman had called home and informed the family’s live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob, that she would be home around 8 p.m.

Asked why he did not wait until his wife’s arrival to have dinner, Coolman said he did not know what time she would have been coming home.

“But didn’t you just say she called and indicated that she would be home around 8 (p.m.)?” asked Merritt.

“No I said she called and said she will be home late,” said Coolman.

He also denied telling officers of the Special Anti Crime Unit (SAUTT) that he did not want them at the house, nor did he attempt to persuade them to keep the kidnapping incident private.

Merritt: You deliberately withheld... didn’t want their involvement... You made it difficult for the police to find the real perpetrators of the crime.

Coolman: Totally incorrect.

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 will continue this morning.

 THE CASE AT A GLANCE

 

Judge: 

Malcolm Holdip

 

State 

attorneys: 

Israel Khan SC

Gilbert Peterson SC

Dana Seetahal SC

Joy Balkaran

Kelly Thompson

 

Defence

attorneys:

Wayne Sturge

Mario Merritt

Ulric Skerritt

Kwesi Bekoe

Selwyn Mohammed

Colin Selvon

Ian Brooks

Richard Valere

Joseph Pantor 

Lennox Sankarsingh

Vince Charles

Christian Chandler

Delicia Helwig

Alexia Romero

Stacy Benjamin-Roach

Nicholas Ali

Stephen Wilson

Thalia Francis-Brooks

Shervon Noriega

Lana Lakhan

Clydene Crevelle

 

Accused:

Shervon Peters

Keida Garcia

Marlon Trimmingham

Earl Trimmingham

Ronald Armstrong

Antonio Charles

Joel Fraser

Lyndon James

Allan Martin

Devon Peters

Anthony Dwayne Gloster

Jamille Garcia

 
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