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T&T minister charged with corruption

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A Trinidad and Tobago government Cabinet Minister in the Dr. Keith Rowley administration has been charged with corruption, money laundering and misbehavior in public office after a five-year police investigation.

Marlene Mc Donald, who was public utilities minister, her common-law husband Michael Carew, the former chairman of the National Commission for Self-help Limited, Edgar Zephryne and Victor McEachrane, who was listed as a director of the Calabar Foundation and a contractor Wayne Anthony are facing several charges arising out of the alleged disbursement of funds from the Community Development Ministry to “help” youths in the depressed communities, which the minister represents.

Government issued a statement on Monday stating Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley had advised President Paula Mae Weekes to revoke the appointment of Mc Donald as public administration minister based on the advice of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and that the Police Service was charging Mc Donald and others with several offences.

Mc Donald was due to appear in the Port of Spain Magistrate’s Court on Monday but she fell ill and was taken under police guard to a private medical institution for treatment in Port of Spain.

This is the third time that Dr. Rowley had fired Mc Donald as a minister. She was first fired as Housing Minister in 2016 following a daily newspaper report of an alleged breach of parliamentary rules that she had hired her husband, Carew and his brother, Lennox, among 13 members of her Port of Spain South constituency office.

Parliamentary rules for hiring staff for constituency office state that MPs are restricted from employing relatives as employees in their constituency offices.

Rowley then asked the then President Anthony Carmona to revoke Mc Donald’s appointment as the then House and Urban Development minister.

There were also questions over donations from the Ministry of Community Development in 2010 of TT$375,000 and $200,000 to the Calabar Foundation while McDonald was still in charge of the ministry. Carew was said to be a Calabar director at the time.

Mc Donald was later cleared of the allegations by the Integrity Commission in 2013 on the Calabar Foundation.

She was re-elected as the Port of Spain South constituency in the 2015 General Election and Rowley appointed her as minister of Housing and Urban Development.

Mc Donald’s second firing came in June 2017. Dr. Rowley said he had “no difficulty” in reappointing her, as the Integrity Commission had found no basis that she breached the Integrity of Public Life Act.

Rowley appointed Mc Donald as the Public Utilities Minister from June 30, 2017, a position she held for less than 24 hours- until July 1, 2017. It was a record from the shortest ministerial appointment held in T&T.’

On July 1, 2017, Rowley advised then President Carmona to revoke the appointment of Mc Donald as public utilities minister.

She was fired after an alleged gang leader from her constituency appeared at her swearing in ceremony at President’s House, St. Ann’s, Port of Spain.

Not only was he present, but was introduced by Mc Donald to the president and posed for pictures with Carmona. He had been repeatedly detained and released by the police.

In March 2018, McDonald made a comeback to the Cabinet and was given a third ministerial position as minister in the Ministry of Public Administration. Three months later, she was elevated to full ministerial portfolio after MP Maxie Cuffie was unable to perform his duty as the substantive minister in this ministry.

Her third firing came on Monday after she was charged with corruption.

Mc Donald was first appointed a Member of Parliament in 2007 for the Port of Spain South constituency under the Patrick Manning administration. She was Opposition Chief Whip in 2010 when the PNM lost the general election.

Updated 4:06 pm, August 20, 2019
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