Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 4th 2014 Contents A8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Three years after he successfully
defended charges of possessing two
illegal guns, licensed gundealer
Towfeek Ali scored another legal vic-
tory yesterday after his long-running
malicious prosecution lawsuit ended
in his favour.
In a 47-page written judgment, deliv-
ered in the Port-of-Spain High Court,
Justice Devindra Rampersad stated that
the story told to the court by the police
officers who charged Ali after raiding
his Chaguanas-based Firearms Training
Institute in December 2004, as "con-
trived and inherently improbable."
Rampersad also took issue with the
lack of contemporaneous notes officers
were required to make during the raid
as well as several inconsistencies in
police station diary extracts that formed
part of the evidence in the case.
He also questioned the logic in the
officers claim that Ali was in possession
of two "old rusty firearms that could
not fire," considering that he (Ali) would
have had "access to an arsenal," as a
licenced firearm dealer.
As part as his judgment, Rampersad
ordered the State to pay Ali and his
wife, Nyree Alfonso, co-owner of the
business and former First Citizens chair-
man, $375,000 in damages in addition
to paying the couple s legal costs for
bringing the lawsuit.
However, despite the win, the couple s
legal victory was bittersweet as they
were only awarded a fraction of com-
pensation demanded in the multi-mil-
lion dollar claim.
In their lawsuit the couple had
claimed that prior to the raid and the
criminal charges, the company bene-
fitted from contracts and business from
several departments of the Ministry of
National Security, including the T&T
Police Service and Defence Force.
They said since the incident the com-
pany had lost out on its regular business
due to the damage done to his own rep-
utation and that of the company.
Ali had contended that he spent
$600,000 for legal representation during
his High Court criminal trial before Jus-
tice Hayden St Clair-Douglas which
ended in his acquital in June 2011.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian yes-
terday evening, Alfonso said although
she and her husband had not received
the exact compensation they were still
satisfied with the outcome of the law-
However, she questioned why the
State had contested their lawsuit in light
of her husband s acquital in the trial,
in which St Clair-Douglas had refered
to similar issues with the officers evi-
dence in his summation.
During the trial before Rampersad in
January last year, Ali testified that on
December 13, 2004, he was at his com-
pany s office at Montrose, Chaguanas,
offloading a container containing guns
and ammunition which were legally
imported by his company.
He said shortly after his wife had
arrived with their young son, a group
of officers of the now defunct Firearm
Interdiction Unit, led by ASP Chan-
drabhan Maharaj, and including Insp
Mitchell Manswell and PC Clifton
Thomas, raided the businessplace.
The couple claimed some of the offi-
cers involved in the raid entered their
offices without first providing a search
Ali testified that during the raid he
went into the building to use the bath-
room and was followed by two police
officers who demanded that he leave
the door open.
He said that on leaving the toilet he
heard the officers shout they had found
two guns near the toilet.
Ali said he was arrested a short while
later when the senior officer on the
scene arrived in his office and showed
him two guns. Ali claimed the weapons
were in the officer s pocket.
Alfonso, who also testified in the case,
claimed the officers who were all dressed
in plainclothes surrounded her car,
pointed guns at her and her son and
used "loud and hostile tones" as well
as insulting and obscene language.
Defence attorneys in the Vindra
Naipaul-Coolman murder trial
yesterday sought to poke holes
in the State s case by questioning
the accuracy of building plans
and maps of an incompleted
house in Diego Martin where she
was allegedly killed.
The issues were highlighted dur-
ing the cross-examination of police
draughtsman Sgt Gregory Hood,
who prepared the diagrams after
taking measurements in May 2007,
almost four months after investi-
gators had gathered key evidence
at the spot.
One of the five diagrams, which
was shown to the jury before Jus-
tice Malcolm Holdip, was a partial
map of Trinidad with markers
pointing to the area at La Puerta
Avenue, Diego Martin, as well as
at Naipaul-Coolman s home at
Radix Road, Lange Park, Chagua-
nas, where she was abducted on
December 19, 2006.
Another showed an aerial draw-
ing of the area surrounding the
one-bedroom red-brick house in
Diego Martin. Two others con-
sisted of a detailed floor plan of
the three-room structure, drawn
to scale, as well as a 3D sketch
which showed it from another
The last diagram was of a hole
under a tree on a hill overlooking
the building which Hood said had
a length of four feet and was three
feet six inches in both depth and
While under cross-examination
yesterday, Hood was asked if he
believed 13 people could possibly
fit in the kitchen of the house
together with a pooltable which
was first described by lead state
prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, in his
At the start of the trial in late
March, Khan claimed the State s
main witness, who was yet to tes-
tify, saw Naipaul-Coolman being
kept captive at the house and also
witnessed her eventually murdered
there, several days after she was
Although Hood admitted he was
not familiar with billiards, he
accepted that from the dimensions
of a standard pooltable told to him
by attorneys, such a scenario would
be a "tight fit" in the room, which
was eight by ten feet and was also
missing some floorboards.
Asked why his 3D diagram only
reflected some of the ventilation
bricks found at the front of the
building, Hood said that diagram
was not drawn to scale and was
only elements of what he observed
on his site visit.
He also accepted that the win-
dows of the building which were
covered in plyboard in his drawings
may not have been there earlier in
the year when a contingent of
police went to collect evidence.
"You could be able to see into
or hear what is going on inside?"
asked attorney Wayne Sturge, who
is representing two of the 12 men
on trial. Hood said yes.
They also suggested that drivers
could easily peer through the ven-
tilation blocks at the front of the
building as it stood a mere 20 feet
from the road.
While attempting to show that
the building was in a densely pop-
ulated area with many surrounding
structures, the attorneys were care-
ful to note that an adjacent build-
ing, which Hood said housed a
mini-mart, was five feet away.
The attorneys also pointed out
that a footpath ran alongside the
building near to the doorless
entrance to the room where the
pooltable was kept.
Hood s cross-examination will
continue this morning.
Defence doubts State's
plans of murder house
Gun dealer wins another
case against State
Defence: Ulric Skerritt, Joseph
Pantor, Selwyn Mohammed,
Lennox Sankersingh, Ian
Brooks, Wayne Sturge, Mario
Merritt, Richard Valere, Kwesi
Bekoe, Colin Selvon, Vince
Charles, Christian Chandler,
Delicia Helwig and Alexia
The 12 men before the jury
and Justice Malcolm Holdip
are Allan "Scanny" Martin,
twin brothers Shervon and
Devon Peters, siblings Keida
and Jamille Garcia and their
older brother Anthony
Dwayne Gloster, brothers
Marlon and Earl
Armstrong, Antonio Charles,
Joel Fraser and Lyndon James.
A 13th man, Raphael Williams,
was charged but died in prison
in 2011 of complications from
WHO'S IN COURT
This pelican, unable to fly because of a broken wing, had drivers swerving to avoid hitting it as it limped
across the busy Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando, yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
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