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The boy who reportedly concocted the sham kidnapping to extort money from his father in a bid to fly to Trinidad appeared in court jointly charged with three others and was released into the custody of the family priest yesterday.
Seventeen-year-old Victor Metivior Ali of 164 Happy Acres, East Coast Demerara appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate, Juliet Holder-Allen. Ali and his alleged accomplices were each granted $15,000 bail following bail applications by their attorneys.
Ali was charged with 18-year-old Chandarashakar Ragnauth called 'Sohan' of 5 Lamaha Street, Railway Embankment, 18-year-old Mark Pompey of 202 Charlotte Street and a 16-year-old who hails from Curtis Street, Albouystown.
The four are facing charges of conspiracy to defraud and demanding money with menace with intent to steal. Ali also faces a separate charge of giving false information to a public officer with intent.
The four pleaded not guilty to the charges and Ali denied the separate charge. Ali is said to have been the mastermind behind his own phony kidnapping last Tuesday.
The first joint charge read that some time between December 9 and 10, they conspired with each other to defraud Vincent Metivior Ali of $1M by false representation that Victor Ali was abducted for ransom. The second charge said that during the same period the four demanded $1M from Vincent Ali while threatening to do harm to him and his family with intent to steal the said money.
The separate charge that Victor Ali is facing alleged that on December 10 he gave false information in writing to Sergeant Brian Vieira intending thereby to cause an investigation to be conducted.
Nigel Hughes in association with Paul Braam appeared on behalf of Victor Ali. Vic Puran represented the juvenile while Mortimer Codette appeared on behalf of Pompey and Ragnauth.
Hughes told the court that Victor Ali was affected psychologically by his parents' separation. He said that the divorce had an impact on the boy.
According to Hughes, the kidnapping ploy was a desperate bid by Victor to acquire funds to return to Trinidad and see his mother. He described the circumstances of the case as tragic and unfortunate. He explained that the boy had an unblemished record and was a model student. He said that Victor successfully passed his CXC examination and was furthering his studies at A-Level. Hughes pointed out that the offence is one of a non-violent nature since no firearms were involved and no damage was done to any property.
In addition, Hughes said that the father had sought the assistance of the family priest to meet the psychological needs of the boy. The priest was present in court yesterday.
Puran said the juvenile shares an honourable bond with Victor and was merely being a friend to him. Puran said that Victor had convinced his client with whom he attends school that he was going to commit suicide or pull the ploy, either way he was going to take action.
Puran pointed out that the case was not a matter of naked criminality since greed was not a part of the plan. He explained that the boys did not approach Victor's father and as such disregarded parental guidance in handling the matter.
He said that his client was saving his friend and as such his actions could amount to nothing more than that of an honourable friend. He said further that the whole matter was blown out of proportion.
Codette told the court that his two clients had been misled. He said that the juvenile approached Ragnauth and told him that Victor was from Essequibo and needed a place to stay, hence the boy was found hiding out at Ragnauth's home.
He said that Pompey, who is an apprentice/mechanic, was visiting the home when police conducted the raid. Codette, too, described the case as unfortunate.
Prosecutor Gordon Peters in opposing bail said that the offence was one of a serious nature and the defendants were intelligent young lads who were well aware of the repercussion of their actions.
The magistrate said that the offence was a non-violent one and the boys did not commit any act against strangers since the virtual complainant is Victor's father. Holder-Allen then asked Vincent Ali to speak on the matter off the record.
A visibly troubled Vincent Ali spoke on what could have triggered his son's actions. The boys were then granted pre-trial liberty. They are to return to court on January 22.
Charges were instituted against the boys last Wednesday, one day after it was alleged that Victor was abducted and being held for ransom. The lad had reportedly faked his own kidnapping and stayed at a friend's home.
Police found him one day after the ploy and released him into his father's custody. Victor was later turned over to the police after the sham kidnapping was revealed. His alleged accomplices were held when police raided the home.