DESPITE being legally entitled to 50 per cent of his wife’s estate following her death, Rennie Coolman, widower of murdered businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, gained just under a quarter of what she owned, less than what was received by her three children.
The money held in two joint bank accounts shared by the couple, and of which Coolman became beneficiary after the death, also formed part of her estate, which was then shared between him and her children from a previous marriage.
It did not include another joint account in which Coolman said his salary was directly deposited.
In total, Coolman said he gained $488,000, with each of Naipaul-Coolman’s children being given $500,000.
This revelation was made yesterday at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain as attorneys representing the 12 men, accused of murdering Naipaul-Coolman in December 2006, sought to establish that Coolman greatly benefitted from her death.
It was his fifth day in the witness box as he continues to face gruelling cross-examination by the defence attorneys before Justice Malcolm Holdip and a 12-member jury and six alternates during his wife’s murder trial.
Attorney Richard Valere accused Coolman of “dipping into” his wife’s estate, namely one of the joint accounts subsequent to her death, but before a settlement had been arrived at regarding how her estate should be distributed.
At that point, Justice Holdip intervened, reminding Valere it mattered not that Coolman made the $75,000 withdrawal from the $400,000 account as he had automatically become the beneficiary after Naipaul-Coolman’s death and, as such, he had the legal authority to withdraw the money.
The judge said it was also irrelevant that the remainder of the money in the account later went on to form part of Naipaul-Coolman’s estate.
The withdrawal was for the payment of a bribe to a woman who claimed to be from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for Coolman to not be innocently charged with Naipaul-Coolman’s murder.
On several other occasions, Holdip was made to further question the relevance of other lines of cross-examination, pointing out that those areas had already been dealt with on previous occasions.
During further cross-examination on his financial gain, Coolman pointed out that “as opposed to the legal distribution of 50 per cent normally given to the spouse”, he only gained the $488,000 of the approximate $2 million estate.
He also dismissed assertions that he made great financial gains from selling a house in Canada that he and Naipaul-Coolman together owned.
Coolman said the house was purchased for Can$342,000 and later sold for Can$384,000. The profit margin was reduced after the payment of a five per cent commission fee of the original value of the home, said Coolman.
Questioning Coolman earlier was attorney Wayne Sturge, who continued his cross-examination from where he left off when the matter was last called on April 16.
Sturge formulated his questioning around Coolman’s decision to pay the $75,000 bribe, asking Coolman if he had a fear of being charged.
Coolman said he never had a fear of being charged in connection with the kidnapping and murder, but was concerned that he possibly could have been.
He also denied under cross-examination by defence attorney Ulric Skerritt that Naipaul-Coolman’s father took issue with his marriage to Vindra, nor did Vindra have “serious issues” with the relationship he shared with her daughter, Rishma Ali.
Coolman will return to court this morning for the continuation of his cross-examination.
At a glance
Justice Malcolm Holdip
Israel Khan SC,
Gilbert Peterson SC,
Dana Seetahal SC,
Anthony Dwayne, Gloster