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Voter padding probe

Harry PartapSadiq BakshRodney CharlesSuzanne SeepersadSteve Ferguson
From Left: Harry Partap, Sadiq Baksh, Rodney Charles, Suzanne Seepersad, Steve Ferguson
High ranking UNC officials homes and offices searched in connection with voters padding.


Friday January 19, 2001

POLICE raided the Chaguanas home of another UNC activist and seized several documents and files which they believe can assist them further in their vote padding probe. And in follow-up action, they interviewed UNC general secretary Fazal Karim.

Sources said investigators involved in the inquiry on Wednesday morning went to the home of activist Ramnath Ramcharitar of Edinburgh Gardens, Chase Village, Chaguanas, and executed a search warrant.

The officers said they confiscated several documents and interviewed Ramcharitar. Later in the day, they questioned Karim at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain. Karim went to the administration building voluntarily, after learning the police had been looking for him.

Officers had gone to Rienzi Complex in Couva on January 5 in search of Karim, but he was not at the office.
Police said later in the day, a man called acting Police Commissioner Everald Snaggs, saying Karim would visit the Commissioner's office.

Karim was allowed to leave the administration building on Wednesday afternoon after he was interviewed.
More than 150 persons have already been questioned in connection with vote padding. Thirty persons have so far been arrested on charges of padding the voters' list.

Friday 8, Dec 2000

VOTE padding arrests climbed to 21 yesterday, after four more persons were taken before three different courts to answer charges.

The four were held during separate raids conducted by members of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Port-of-Spain and Southern Divisions.

Police have warrants for nine more people connected to allegations of vote transfer, top police sources revealed yesterday. Lawmen took a Rio Claro Clerk of the Peace to the district's courthouse, and another defendant to the Chaguanas District Court.

They also took a mother and her daughter to the Port-of-Spain Court around 2 pm.
The mother and daughter, Judy and Alena Joseph of Shende Street, San Juan, who were arrested earlier in the day, were each placed on $15,000 bail when they appeared before Senior Magistrate Deborah Thomas-Felix.

They are accused of making false declarations, in that they tried to shift their address to Third Avenue, Barataria.

Tuesday 5, Dec 2000

A MEDICAL doctor and his father appeared in court yesterday on the latest series of charges in connection with alleged voter padding.

Dr Peter Bhagwandeen, 37, and his 66-year-old father Simon of Gopaul Lands, Marabella were among six people to appear in the San Fernando First Court.

Dr Bhagwandeen is a director of the MTS (Maintenance TDoctor and dad in courtraining and Security Company Ltd).

The other four accused are Fitzroy Alleyne, 40, of 47 Sydenham Avenue, St Ann’s, who is a UNC activist; Brenda Biran, 56, of Cipero Road, Retrench Village and bookstore owner Shaheed Mohammed, 41, and his common-law wife Elizabeth Jogie 41, of Dopson Drive, Philippine, South Trinidad.

Sunday 3, Dec 2000

THE BREAK-IN at the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) office in San Fernando has come as no surprise to investigators probing allegations of voters’ list padding in marginal constituencies.

Police sources said they had long recommended that a guard be placed at the office to protect files there, since it was the location for the genesis of their investigation. They suspect the break-in was an attempt to cover up a trail of corruption but expressed confidence that it would not affect their probe.

Investigators already have the cards on more than 380 voters who transferred their names to the San Fernando West constituency in an alleged attempt to bolster votes for one political party and they intend to continue to investigate all the suspects.

Warrants were executed on six more people who surrendered themselves to the police late on Friday and yesterday in south Trinidad.

Among them was Fitzroy Alleyne, an activist of the United National Congress who is part of Works Minister Sadiq Baksh’s campaign in San Fernando West. He allegedly gave his address as Sydenham Avenue, St Ann’s, and transferred the address to Carlton Lane, in the San Fernando West constituency. He lives at Cocoyea Village.

Also charged with violating the Representation of the People Act are:

Dr Peter Bhagwandeen, 37, of Ruby Lane, Gopaul Lands, and his 66-year-old father Simon Bhagwandeen, who allegedly attempted to transfer their vote to Palmiste, San Fernando; Shaheed Mohammed and his common-law wife Elizabeth Jogie, of Dobson Drive, Philippine, who transferred to La Romaine; and Brenda Biran, 56, of Cipero Road, Retrench Village, San Fernando, who allegedly attempted to transfer her vote by claiming she lived at Gooding Village, San Fernando.

One police officer said the “heat is on” them not to make a public spectacle of those being arrested in this final week of campaigning and as such, they were calling in suspects to district stations to execute arrests rather than going to their homes and arresting them.

“But the work goes on. It’s a huge task and it will continue even after the election, no matter who wins or who loses,” one senior investigator said.

Saturday 25, Nov

THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mark Mohammed has ordered the arrests of 30 persons suspected of being part of a plot to pad the voters' list.

Mohammed gave the directive to senior officers who had questioned 125 people in connection with the allegation.
A senior officer confirmed yesterday they had unearthed strong evidence to prosecute persons for attempting to pad the voters' list.

The warrants were being prepared late yesterday by detectives based at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Port-of-Spain. Sources said DPP Mohammed also had to sign some of the warrants to be executed on suspects.
Police were supposed to have started picking up the suspects last night.

November 24, 2000

TOP UNC officials are among more than 30 people to be charged with election fraud by police.

Following lengthy discussions with Director of Public Prosecutions Mark Mohammed over the past few days, the police team yesterday obtained warrants to arrest and charge several suspects, sources said.

The charges will include conspiracy to defraud and making a false declaration under the Forgery Act, and making false declaration under the Representation of the People’s Act.

Some UNC party activists were also to be arrested, police said.Investigators said they would give some of the high profile activists the opportunity to surrender themselves rather than go to their homes.

November 23, 2000

POLICE have completed the major part of their probe into allegations of illegal voter transfers and have forwarded the file to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mark Mohammed.

The file contains statements taken from several top UNC officials, other party activists and other documents. Up to last night, investigators were still meeting with the DPP.

Top police sources also revealed yesterday, several persons, suspected to have been involved in the plot, could face prosecution by today or over the weekend.

When questioned about plans to make an arrest, the senior officer said: "Well, it could be tomorrow or maybe over the weekend.

A MAN who is said to have 15 different addresses was being questioned by police up to late last night in connection with alleged voter padding. Most of the addresses are in the San Fernando West constituency. Investigators described them as bogus.

November 20, 2000

In the latest twist in the voter-padding issue, the EBC, in a statement last night, said 252 applications have been submitted to the police for further investigation.

In its statement, the EBC confirmed that the five constituencies were the marginal ones, namely Tunapuna, Barataria/San Juan, St Joseph, Ortoire/Mayaro and San Fernando West. In its breakdown of the 252 rejected applications, 66 were in Tunapuna, 18 in Barataria/San Juan, 11 in St Joseph, 58 in Ortoire/Mayaro and 99 in San Fernando West.

The EBC said in late September "two bundles of fifty-three (53) and forty-nine (49) notifications of change of addresses were received for transfers to the marginal constituencies of Ortoire/Mayaro and Tunapuna, respectively."
The EBC said its field investigations revealed that "all investigations supplied in support of all but seven notifications were inaccurate and accordingly 95 applications for transfers were deemed invalid and rejected."

The applications for transfers made during the period of electoral registration could not have been determined until the exercise (registration) was completed and were "eventually supplied to the police on November 10," the EBC revealed.

It added the matter was a special circumstance and, as a result, "the five marginal districts should be separated from the rest, and all notifications for transfers were to be subjected to special scrutiny and circumspection." The EBC sought yesterday to assure the nation the Revised List of Electors had been completed and it was "an accurate and reliable list of duly-registered electors" as far as practicable.

November 12, 2000

The EBC, according to informed sources, has turned over a list of more than 100 names of persons seeking illegal transfers in two crucial marginal constituencies to the police.

The names, the sources said, provided conclusive evidence of vote padding prior to the start of the electoral registration on October 3.

The election watchdog agency has also turned down 53 transfer applications in Ortoire/Mayaro and another 49 in Tunapuna after preliminary checks found that the information supplied on the Form 22 transfer forms was false, said sources, adding that the names of persons seeking illegal transfers have been turned over to a police probe investigating allegations of vote padding.

EBC officials have stayed clear of the allegations suggesting electoral fraud. Chairman Sir Isaac Hyatali and chief election officer Howard Cayenne, declined comment when contacted by the Sunday Express last week.

The only comment offered by election officials so far has been that they would follow the law scrupulously to ensure the integrity of the electoral list.

But insiders report that the EBC has been split over whether to issue a statement to the press or say nothing until the police investigation has been completed.

November 11, 2000

Cops interview Maraj on voter padding
NAPARIMA MP Ralph Maraj was one of several people interviewed yesterday by police detectives investigating allegations of voter padding in the run-up to the December 11 general election.

Maraj had said he was approached by “over enthusiastic” supporters of the United National Congress to be part of a scheme to pad the voter’s list in marginal constituencies.

Investigators said they got “permission” to speak to Maraj, and also visited several homes in south and central Trinidad to interview people whose change of registration was disallowed by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC). more...

November 5, 2000

A senior officer close to the investigation disclosed yesterday that although lawmen probing the allegations were compiling good evidence, they were becoming frustrated because of the constant "outside interference with the probe."

"There have been attempts by top persons in the country to suppress the evidence," a source said.
Officers believe without the interference criminal charges could be laid against persons before the general election on December 11.

Informed sources also revealed the police were looking for a particular electronic document on which they strongly suspect most of the voter padding information had been recorded.

A key witness in the inquiry is still under protection in a safe house. Police Commissioner Hilton Guy appointed a police team headed by Senior Superintendent James Philbert and including Superintendents Clyde Reyes and Ruthven Paul to conduct the probe.

Partap’s office searched

Abstract: Trinidad Express
November 4, 2000

THE Rio Claro office of UNC MP Harry Partap and several homes and offices in north, south and central Trinidad were searched as police intensified their investigations into allegations of voter padding yesterday.

In a house-to-house campaign of a different kind, members of the Port of Spain CID knocked on the doors of several voters who either attempted to, or did transfer their registration from their electoral district to one of the so-called marginal constituencies.

“We are going through a lot of applications which were in some instances rejected by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) as false, and others which were approved. Some people who attempted to move [their vote] and others who actually did,” one investigator said.

Two employees in the UNC office at Rio Claro were detained for questioning and released after giving statements to police.

But up to late yesterday evening, Partap, the Nariva MP and Minister of Labour, denied police had searched the place.

“The first time I’m hearing about this is when you mentioned it,” Partap said. He was, at first, evasive when asked to confirm or deny the reports.

“You could print what you hear. Maybe I can get some money when I sue the Express,” he said.

Pressed further, Partap advised that any information should be sought from the police or from the UNC Headquarters at Rienzi Complex, Couva.

Then he said: “Let me be serious with you now. I am not aware of any searches at my office or of any of my employees being detained by the police. I spent some time at my office in Rio Claro today and I left. Up to that time nothing of the sort had happened. I can’t say if anything went on after I left.”

The police blitz throughout the day yesterday, also confronted eligible voters whose request for transfers were rejected by the EBC.

“It’s a lot of work and it would take us some time to get to the bottom of this but already we’ve identified certain political activists and high profile members who encouraged people to do it [falsify their voter registration],” one investigator said yesterday.

Police said the massive exercise was “something of great concern to us from what is being revealed so far. This is really big”, one investigator added.

Investigators are “building a case” which will be presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions during the course of their inquiry, for “action at the appropriate time”.

More police resources, including cars and people, are expected to be assigned to the investigating team in an attempt to conclude the probe before the December 11 election.

The police investigation was sparked by complaints and information supplied by the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM). One UNC activist has been identified as the source of the information, but the party has been keen to discredit him.

Several private lawsuits have seen been filed against Richard Bickram, also known as Richard Ramkissoon, who worked at one time with the UNC’s Party Administrative Support Unit (Pasu) in Barataria, for allegedly tendering bogus cheques. Bickram, according to the UNC was fired for using the party’s fund-raising machinery for his own gain.

The Pasu office is the main hub of the UNC’s re-election machinery and has been credited by Prime Minister Basdeo Panday as the key to the party’s victory in campaign 2000.

November 1, 2000

Suresh Maharaj, a UNC field officer and Steve Ferguson, a UNC financier had their homes and offices searched for the second time as police continue their investigation into the padding of voting lists.

Panday encouraged this paddig when he told supporters, at a meeting in Cunupia Caroni East, last July, to help the party win the neighbouring marginal seat of Tunapuna. Panday then told his supporters,

"If we had a thousand more votes in Tunapuna we would have had one more seat."

"You have to win your own seat and go into the less strong seats and bring that home for me, wherever it is we are weak."

UNC blames low level supporter

October 30, 2000

A LOW level paid party functionary and San Fernando playwright has been blamed by the UNC as the mastermind of an alleged conspiracy to damage the ruling party.

The man, said to be in mid-30s has a string of bad debts and, according to Suzanne Seepersad, head of the Party Administrative Support Unit (PASU), was kicked out of the UNC after it was discovered he was falsifying membership forms to collect extra money.

Police seize UNC election data

October 29, 2000

DISKETTES, computers and files seized by police in 13 separate raids conducted at the homes and offices of senior UNC election campaign officials are being examined by police computer technicians, senior police sources said yesterday.

"The investigation is serious and more raids could be carried out if the information we are looking for turns up on the seized documents," a top officer told the Sunday Guardian yesterday.

The officer confirmed that a total of 13 separate searches, nine in North and four in San Fernando, were carried out.
A contingent of police officers spearheaded by Senior Superintendent James Philbert, Superintendent Clyde Reyes, ASP Errol Denoon, ASP Ruthven Paul of the Homicide Bureau and acting Insp Paul Rodriguez conducted the 13 raids, in which the home of Works and Transport Minister Sadiq Baksh was also searched.

Senior Supt Philbert, who was appointed just about two weeks ago by Police Commissioner Hilton Guy to probe the vote padding allegations, led the operation in San Fernando while Supt Reyes was in charge of the North raids.
The probe into allegations of voter padding was first made by Opposition Leader Patrick Manning who subsequently held discussions with Guy on October 9.

Police said Manning presented to Guy documentary information which allegedly suggested that 1,000 names on the electoral list were being transferred to marginal constituencies to ensure a UNC victory in the upcoming general election. Guy is out of the country but his second in command, John Grant, is being kept abreast of the investigations daily.

Police search Sadiq Baksh house

October 28, 2000

While the pre-dawn raids were under way, police accompanied a key informant out of the country. The man had been kept at a safe house since the start of the investigations.

Yesterday police detained three high-ranking members of the UNC for questioning.

Baksh described how he and his wife were awakened by police officers around 6 am yesterday at their home on Lazzarri Street, Palmiste.Although "surprised and concerned," the minister said he "cooperated fully" with the police, as they searched all the rooms in his house and perused the files stored on his laptop and personal computer.

He could not give a comprehensive list, but said the premises of Maritime Financial Group were searched, as was the home of its executive chairman, Steve Ferguson, whom he described as a UNC supporter. The party's Administrative Support Unit at Chaguanas was among the other premises searched, Baksh said.
Baksh, who is the coordinator of the UNC election campaign, said he did not ask to see a warrant and was not told by officers the purpose of their action, but he suspected one "flimsy basis" might be "an unsigned letter which was faxed from the office of Prof Selwyn Ryan." He is head of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the UWI, St Augustine.

"We see this as a PNM plot linked to the announcement of the date of elections and we are very concerned with the privacy of the information (confiscated) and hope it would not end up in the hands of the PNM," Minister Baksh said last night. The minister conceded, however, in response to a question, that the search of his home had to have been cleared by a magistrate or other judicial officer, who would have had to be satisfied the police had reasonable grounds for executing the warrant. Baksh said he was not aware of any arrests or detentions but, up to late last night, he was still "coordinating all the responses."

E-Mail Comment From: Kurt Garcia

Where is the equal opportunity of treatment by the UNC, for it's high ranking members, Dhanraj Singh house is searched, he is fired and everyone has no comment to make and remains silent. Sadiq Baksh house is searched and instantly you hear of "outrage committed" "PNM dirty trick campaign" "well orchestrated" etc. My advice to the UNC is to follow the advice of the Prime Minister and their leader and take all allegations of wrong doing to the Police if they feel they have been unfairly or illegally dealt with and let the Police take it from there.

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