Trinidad Guardian:- The resurrection of a six-year-old investigation into the alleged siphoning of over $1 million from a government ministry to three organisations linked to family and friends culminated in the arrest of Public Administration Minister Marlene McDonald and her husband yesterday.
Officers of the Fraud Squad swooped down on McDonald’s home at Valley View, Maracas, St Joseph, where they executed a search warrant and took away several items.
The chain of dramatic events triggered several reactions as to what this meant for the ruling PNM and the upcoming elections. In 2015 and 2018 Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had defended his decision to bring McDonald, a key platform campaigner, back into his Cabinet even though the investigation was unresolved.
But the situation is likely to change if the police charge McDonald with criminal offences, including misbehaviour in public office. Rowley told Guardian Media yesterday that he was awaiting the outcome of the police probe.
Guardian Media understands that a hand-picked team of officers under Snr Supt Totaram Dookhie had been quietly gathering corroborating evidence and had been liaising with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions throughout the high-profile inquiry.
Investigators were expected to ask McDonald and her husband, Michael Carew, pointed questions relating to the request, approval and distribution of state funds through three NGOs— the Calabar Foundation, Waterwheel Foundation and a third entity—which were allegedly misappropriated.
A terse statement from the Police Service confirmed published media reports that McDonald and her husband had been arrested and taken into custody.
They were detained earlier today…inquiries are ongoing at this time and more information will be provided when it becomes available,” it added.
Outside the minister’s home in Valley View, St Joseph on Thursday, officers were seen moving in and out of the premises. They appeared to be searching.
One neighbour who spoke with Guardian Media on the condition of anonymity, said the officers arrived shortly after 6.30 am. Almost five hours later, at around 11.24 am the officers left McDonald’s home with a bundle of documents.
Guardian Media was unable to determine if McDonald was still on the compound during the search as officers seemed to deliberately manoeuvre their vehicles in her driveway to block the media. The darkly-tinted vehicles left the compound before noon.
However, just after 3 pm, Guardian Media was able to confirm that McDonald was taken to the Fraud Squad offices on Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain and later taken to the St Joseph Police Station where she remained up to press time. Her attorney, Pamela Elder SC, was also seen at the police station.