Chief Magistrate denies bribery allegation

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, September 19, 2007 – Trinidad & Tobago’s Chief Magistrate, Sherman McNicolls, is denying an allegation that he accepted a TT$400,000 bribe from insurance and banking powerhouse CL Financial.

McNicolls yesterday denied the accusation by the lead lawyer representing suspended Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma. Sharma has accused McNicolls of fabricating the charge against him after he was caught receiving the bribe.

But McNicolls shot back, “One thing I have never done in my life is take a bribe. I don’t know what a bribe looks like.” He also agreed to disclose his 2006 bank records for inspection.

Instead, the chief magistrate claimed the money was received as down payment for the sale of a parcel of land to Tony Maharaj of CL Financial. He also said he subsequently repaid the money to Maharaj and not CL Financial because he “realized it might have been a trap set for me.”

Sharma, 64, is before a tribunal that is enquiring into the allegation made by McNicolls that he was asked by the chief justice to rule favorably on behalf of former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday.

McNicolls returns to the witness stand today to face further cross-examination. –