Sunday, December 17, 2017

Franklin Khan cleared

'...Dhansook to be investigated'

FORMER chairman of the People's National Movement (PNM) Franklin Khan was yesterday freed on corruption charges that were based on the claims of Dhansam Dhansook, whose testimony was discredited yesterday by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

An investigation is now expected to be launched against Dhansook—a former PNM Local Government councillor, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his evidence against Khan and former PNM energy minister Eric Williams.

Williams was also charged with multiple counts of fraud, based on Dhansook's report to the Fraud Squad, but he too was discharged three years ago.

DPP Roger Gaspard turned up in the San Fernando First Magistrate's Court yesterday afternoon, where the preliminary enquiry was due to continue before Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington.

When Khan's case was called, Gaspard said, "It came to my attention that recently, the main witness (Dhansook) has made certain utterances."

Gaspard said these utterances could "amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice".

"Dhansam Dhansook is not the type of witness the prosecution chooses to mount any further prosecution against Mr Franklin Khan... We will conduct an enquiry in this matter," Gaspard told the court yesterday.

It was based on Dhansook's testimony that the State brought six corruption charges against Khan, the former minister of works and transport, in the San Fernando Magistrates' Court related to his alleged misbehaviour in public office between 2001 and 2003.

The State claims he allegedly accepted $120,500 in bribes from Dhansook, in exchange for contracts.

Three charges were also brought in Siparia and one in Port of Spain and Rio Claro. These charges have all since been discharged. In April last year, five of the charges in San Fernando were dismissed.

The decision to discontinue the charges resulted from an Appeal Court decision preventing the State from using certain evidence against Khan, a former Member of Parliament for Mayaro.

Yesterday the final allegation was discharged. "It was five years of torture for my family and I," Khan told reporters outside the courthouse yesterday.

His wife, Laura, said five years was taken from her husband's life.

She cried following Wellington's announcement that her husband was free. Several supporters also shed tears as they hugged and kissed the couple.

Khan resigned his ministerial post during the investigation and resigned as party chairman when charged.

"The prosecution wishes to offer no evidence against this accused," Gaspard told Magistrate Wellington.

He said the evidence which was given in the past was insufficient to commit Khan to the High Court, as a prima facie case had not been made.

Dhansook, the owner of TT Geoseis Services Ltd, began testifying in September 2007.

Earlier this year, cross-examination began by Khan's defence attorney Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson. He said it was a "commendable position" the DPP had adopted. "I didn't expect anything else," he said.

Dhansook made a hasty retreat from the court. "I have nothing to say," he said.

In December 2007, Williams, a former PNM Member of Parliament for Port of Spain South, was freed on seven charges of unlawfully accepting various sums, totalling $75,000, from Dhansook, in exchange for contracts in an oil exploration project.

Magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan, in dismissing the charges against Williams, said the evidence given by Dhansook during the trial was "so tenuous" that a jury, properly directed, could not convict.

Khan was represented by Peterson and attorneys Sophia Chote and Hasine Sheikh. Queen's Counsel Christopher Sallon, George Busby and Randall Hector appeared for the State.