Multiple Charges

By ARTHUR HALL / Jamaica Observer

Ruel Reid, Fritz Pinnock and others to face court soon; justice minister chides cops for tactics used to arrest 5.

Law enforcement agencies last night reported that the five people, including former Education Minister Ruel Reid and Caribbean Maritime Union (CMU) President Fritz Pinnock, who were taken into custody after early- morning raids at their homes yesterday, have been charged with a number of offences.

“Upon the completion of the interview process these parties were subsequently charged for various illegal acts, to include breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act (CPA), conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA),” the Financial Investigations Division, (FID), the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (CTOC) said in a news release.

“The individuals have been remanded in custody and will be placed before the courts at the earliest possible time,” the agencies added.

The release came hours after Reid, his wife Sharen, daughter Sharelle, Pinnock, and Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence (Jamaica Labour Party, Brown’s Town Division, St Ann) were detained by police investigating allegations of corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds at the Ministry of Education and the CMU.

Throughout the day, as news spread of the dramatic raids at Reid’s house in upper St Andrew, Pinnock’s home in Hellshire, St Catherine, and Lawrence’s house in Brown’s Town, St Ann, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck questioned the method with which the agencies went about the joint operation.

Chuck also cautioned the investigative agencies to ensure that the evidence they are relying on to prosecute the five is sufficient to go before the courts.

“What is interesting is that the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) seems to have had no additional material or evidence, and what seems so unfortunate [is] that the arrests took place in what looks like Nicodemus in the night,” Chuck told journalists at an event in St Mary.

I don’t get the impression that these persons are running away. They have actually made themselves available on all occasions. So, in fact, if an arrest should have been made they could easily have been asked to come in so that they could be charged and, in these persons’ cases, if they are to be charged, I suspect that they could be granted their own bail, or they could be asked to surrender their travel documents as the case may be,” added Chuck.

He argued that it was unfortunate that the matter had become so “salacious” that raids were carried out at the houses of the suspects while the police searched for more material.

“It seems like the authorities are still not sure what they are looking for, but then again, you ask the question, as the leader of the opposition has indicated, why are these investigations taking so long? Come to a conclusion.

“If you don’t have the material, report that you don’t have enough material to charge. But if you go and you charge, be careful that you [don’t] charge on very limited evidence with the end result being that the cases will not go very far and the end result will undermine the sort of confidence that you should have in the institutions,” warned Chuck.

The coordinated operations started at 5:00 am and ended shortly before midday after a more than six-hour-long search of Reid’s residence.

Following the search, a team from MOCA emerged from the house with three people hidden under a blanket.

It is believed that the individuals under the blanket were Reid, his wife and daughter. They were placed in an unmarked police vehicle which quickly sped away.

Several documents, computers and other items were also taken from the house by the police.

Chief technical director of the FID Robin Sykes later said the investigators believe that they have established a strong case against all five.

“An operation of this nature relies on where the evidence is taking you, the strength of the evidence, as well as serious issues of logistics, serious issues of resources mobilisation,” said Sykes.

“This is not something that we pulled out of the hat one day or two days ago. This is something that we have been planning, and we have been monitoring the activities of the targets and this is the day we have decided to proceed,” added Sykes.

He confirmed that the premises of former Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western Othneil Lawrence was also searched as part of the coordinated operation, but Lawrence, who was given a $5.5-million contract by the CMU, was not arrested.

However, Sykes did not rule out the arrest of Lawrence and others as investigators continue their probe.