Eric A. Williams
Eric A. Williams was a Trinidad and Tobago politician until November 2007 and was Member of Parliament for Port of Spain South. Until his resignation from the Cabinet in January 2006, he served as the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries in the then People's National Movement government, a post he had held since December 2001. A geologist and geophysicist by training, Williams entered Parliament in 1995 when he won the Port of Spain South seat formerly held by PNM founder Dr. Eric Williams (no relative).
In a now discredited February 2004 letter to then Prime Minister and Political Leader of the PNM Patrick Manning, PNM Councillor Dansam Dhansook alleged that he had paid a TT$75,000 (approx. US$12,000) bribe to Williams in seven separate payments over the period January to July 2003; one of TT$15,000 and six of TT$10,000. The letter was made public on 27 April 2005, when it was read in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister (as of May 2010) Kamla Persad-Bissessar, United National Congress MP for Siparia. Dhansook has since publicly apologised to Mr Williams, his colleague Mr Franklin Khan, and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago for his role in this entire matter.
An article entitled "Dhansook says I’m sorry" on Sunday, 13 February 2011, in the Trinidad Sunday Guardian reads in part:
"'I am sorry.' Former People’s National Movement councillor, Dansam Dhansook has finally apologised to former PNM ministers Franklin Khan and Eric Williams for the role he played in their wrongful arrests. Acknowledging an apology could never suffice the agony and pain both families endured, a visibly stressed Dhansook said the time had come for him to make amends. 'I want to say sorry to the people that I hurt and I was used to hurt; I am sorry. I am very sad about what I did. I am totally disappointed in myself. I am not looking for any sympathy. I made a mistake by trusting a certain individual and I paid the price for it. 'I want to tell the families of Mr Khan and Williams that I am sorry from the depths of my heart. I want to tell the country sorry...I really made a mistake,' a remorseful Dhansook said in a candid interview with Sunday Guardian last week.
Both ministers were hauled before the court on bribery and corruption allegations made by Dhansook. However, Williams was freed due to unreliable evidence and charges were dropped against Khan after investigations revealed a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Admitting that he feared for his life, the former Ecclesville councillor who said he had made attempts to correct the 'mess,' claimed that because of scare tactics and lies employed by a certain individual he was manipulated and led down a path of no return, 'one lie after another lie.' 'I wanted to come out and say exactly what happened but I was afraid and was being guided. I have lost everything and I have nothing to lie about anymore. I have nothing to hide anymore,' said Dhansook, whose business has collapsed and his family life almost shattered. 'I never bribed Mr Khan or Williams. In fact, I never knew Williams,' he confessed. 'I knew Khan because we were childhood friends. I am sorry for what I did and the hurt I caused,' Dhansook said, as he openly explained the type of business relationship he had shared with Khan.
Snr Supt Solomon Koon Koon of the Anti Corruption Investigations Bureau visited Dhansook last week and questioned him in relation to the matter."
On 7 January 2006 seven warrants for Williams arrest were issued on a charge of misconduct in public office for corruptly receiving $75,000 in 2003. Williams who maintained his innocence, but "senior government members" predicted correctly that he would resign his ministerial portfolio on 9 January 2006. On January 9 the seven charges were laid indictably against Williams. He was granted bail of TT$600,000.
No PNM officials appeared at his hearings over the two-year duration of the Preliminary Inquiry, other than then Mayor of San Fernando Ian Atherly and former Councillor Cynthia Pipier of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation. However, three then Ministers, Fitzgerald Hinds, then a Minister of State and now a Senator in the Opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley (who was being investigated by the Integrity Commission but has since been exhonerated while a member of the Cabinet and is now the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the PNM) and Diane Seukeran, former MP for San Fernando West and then a Minister of State, spoke to the press in his defence.
On December 31, 2007, all charges against Mr. Williams were dismissed. His accuser Dansam Dhansook was declared to be 'manifestly unreliable as a witness' by Senior Magistrate L. Cardinez-Ragoonanan who presided over the Preliminary Inquiry into the charges.
... Earlier, sitting in the Fourth Court, Magistrate Cardenas-Ragoonanan cited several inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, the most crucial being that the evidence of its main witness was 'unreliable and inconsistent.'
During his testimony, Dhansook, a PNM Councillor and contractor with Terra Seis Seismic Surveys Limited, told the Court that he was at Balisier House when Williams demanded payments from him. However a few moments later Dhansook admitted, when given his original statement to the police to be read out under oath in the court, that on the same day he was at a Christmas party he held for his staff and that he clearly remembered because it was two days before his birthday. Yesterday, Cardenas-Ragoonanan said, “The fact that Mr Dhansook testified he was in two places at the same time when the plan was hatched, sent red flags of uncertainty. It was impossible that he could be at Balisier House (sic in Port of Spain) and at a staff party in Rio Claro, if by virtue of geography alone.' The Magistrate added, 'I find the evidence tenuous...tenuous indeed, vague, uncertain and definitely not enough for any jury to convict on.'
Cardenas-Ragoonanan also ruled that there were several flaws in the allegation itself as there was no documented evidence to support whether payments were made to Williams. 'Mr Dhansook was unable to give specific times and occasions when the payments were allegedly made to Mr Williams, his evidence was tenuous, at worst unbelievable, a jury should not have to speculate. Therefore I find it that no prima facie case can be made out against Mr Williams on Dhansook’s evidence,' the magistrate said."
- "Dhansook says I’m sorry", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 13 February 2011.
- "Energy Minister due in court tomorrow" Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, Wendy Campbell, Trinidad Guardian
- Juhel Browne, "Williams cries false charges" Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Guardian
- "Energy Minister to resign" Archived 2007-02-16 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Guardian
- The seven charges Archived 2007-10-07 at the Wayback Machine - Trinidad Express
- Williams’ bail increased to $.6m Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine Jada Loutoo, Trinidad Guardian
- Hayden Mills, "$.6M Bail: Former minister on 7 counts of corruptly receiving $75,000" Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Express.
- Irene Medina, "Three Ministers in support of Williams"[permanent dead link], Trinidad Express.
- Onika James, "Eric Williams walks free", Tuesday, 1 January 2008.