DPP orders charges to be re-laid against A&V CEO

Po­lice have been ad­vised to file fresh crim­i­nal charges against A&V Oil and Gas CEO Hanif Naz­im Baksh—a friend of Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley—and his son-in-law af­ter cas­es against them col­lapsed pre­ma­ture­ly two weeks ago.

Guardian Me­dia has been re­li­ably in­formed that the Of­fice of the DPP had re­quest­ed the po­lice files in­volv­ing the as­sault charges that had been laid against Baksh and Cpl Bil­ly Ram­sun­dar af­ter a com­plaint from Guardian Me­dia se­nior pho­tog­ra­ph­er Kris­t­ian De Sil­va.

 

The case be­gan two years af­ter the al­leged as­sault of De Sil­va by Baksh. The fresh charges have since been laid and the two men are ex­pect­ed to ap­pear in court on Sep­tem­ber 3.

When the mat­ter was last called be­fore Mag­is­trate Mar­garet Alert, she freed Baksh and Ram­sun­dar be­cause the State was not ready to pro­ceed.

The Of­fice of the DPP re­ceived all the po­lice records last Fri­day, sources said.

Af­ter re­view­ing the po­lice files, DPP Roger Gas­pard ad­vised the po­lice to re-lay the charges against the de­fen­dants, Guardian Me­dia was in­formed.

The de­vel­op­ment comes in the wake of pub­lic con­cern af­ter the case end­ed.

On Sat­ur­day, the Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion in a state­ment called on Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith and the DPP to pro­vide a thor­ough ex­pla­na­tion for their fail­ure to pros­e­cute the cas­es.

MATT said it was dis­turbed by the rea­sons lead­ing to the dis­missal of the case.

“The dis­charg­ing of these men is, at best, a shock­ing ex­am­ple of neg­li­gence by in­sti­tu­tions re­spon­si­ble for crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion. At worst, it is a tac­it en­dorse­ment by law en­force­ment of at­tacks on jour­nal­ists and press free­dom, and a sus­pi­cious de­vel­op­ment, giv­en that one of the ac­cused is a wealthy friend of the Prime Min­is­ter and the oth­er a mem­ber of the TTPS,” MATT stat­ed.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion added: “Jour­nal­ists pur­sue news to serve the pub­lic’s right to know.

There can be no ar­gu­ment that al­le­ga­tions, where A&V Drilling charged the now-de­funct Petrotrin ap­prox­i­mate­ly $100 mil­lion for oil not sup­plied, was a pub­lic in­ter­est sto­ry de­serv­ing of dogged pur­suit by jour­nal­ists. In this mat­ter, the free press was ful­fill­ing its de­mo­c­ra­t­ic func­tion in ser­vice of the pub­lic in­ter­est. We call on the TTPS and the Of­fice of the DPP to do the same.”

In re­sponse, Grif­fith took um­brage to MATT’s state­ment say­ing that the or­gan­i­sa­tion should have sought to get the facts first be­fore is­su­ing a state­ment.

He said he had al­ready com­menced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the mat­ter.

He al­so as­sured that the po­lice would do all that is re­quired to en­sure the safe­ty of jour­nal­ists and he re­mind­ed the pub­lic that they can­not de­bar the me­dia from do­ing their du­ties, es­pe­cial­ly if they are in a pub­lic space.

De Sil­va had said he was un­aware that the mat­ter had been fixed to be­gin and had not been so in­formed by the main po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor ASP Ruthven Hunte.

Ram­sun­dar, a po­lice of­fi­cer with 25 years’ ser­vice, was charged with as­sault­ing De Sil­va and dam­ag­ing his com­pa­ny-owned Canon DSLR cam­era val­ued at US$1,600.

Baksh, who is the fa­ther of for­mer PNM Sen­a­tor Allyson Baksh, was charged with as­sault­ing the pho­tog­ra­ph­er and ma­li­cious­ly dam­ag­ing De Sil­va’s eye­glass­es val­ued at $2,400.

Baksh al­so faced an ad­di­tion­al charge of us­ing threats to in­flu­ence Khu­sial Moti­ram to give false ev­i­dence and with­hold true ev­i­dence, know­ing or rea­son­ably be­liev­ing he was a po­ten­tial wit­ness in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the as­sault of De Sil­va and the ma­li­cious dam­age of prop­er­ty be­long­ing to De Sil­va.

On Sep­tem­ber 15, 2017, De Sil­va was stand­ing out­side A&V’s com­pound along Naz­im Av­enue, Pe­nal, gath­er­ing pho­tos for cov­er­age of the “Fake Oil” scan­dal be­tween the com­pa­ny and Petrotrin, when he was al­leged­ly as­sault­ed by Baksh.

He sus­tained a bust­ed lip, bruised face and his cam­era was dam­aged.

Af­ter the me­dia broke news about the al­le­ga­tions against A&V Oil in Sep­tem­ber 2017, the Prime Min­is­ter said he had called, Baksh, whom he ac­knowl­edged is his friend, to find out what the re­port was all about.

He said then if a per­son was his friend he would not “de­ny or dis­own” the per­son on the grounds that an al­le­ga­tion has been made against them.

In May, Row­ley said in Par­lia­ment it was up to the DPP to de­cide whether or not crim­i­nal charges will flow from the in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to A&V claims for pay­ment from Petrotrin.

Reporter: Darren Bahaw

 

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