Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Mark Wignall | General Legal Council and the rogues' gallery

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It was about one year after the huge launch of Digicel in Jamaica and the new telecoms entity had once again invited us to its new products rollout at The Pegasus.

"Why not an African company? Why does it have to be European?" said Antonnette Haughton Cardenas to me. I shrugged my shoulders and forced a smile.

The next time we spoke again was at the scene of a horrific mass murder of seven people, including women and children, at Hundred Lane off Red Hills Road. We didn't say much to each other then. We embraced and shook our heads in utter shock.

The firebrand lawyer was well known as a feisty talk-show host and had even toyed with the idea of launching a brand new political party. She had a way of spreading her passion once one came into contact with her. Then in 2009, it came to an inglorious end for the Black Nationalist as she was struck off the rolls of attorneys entitled to practise the noble profession by the General Legal Council (GLC). Her sins? Misappropriation of her client's funds.

In the late 1990s when I called Nancy Tulloch-Darby, she sounded fit to be tied. "You have absolutely nothing to do with this case and I will not be discussing anything with you."

The lawyer had been handling a case for a poor client, a plumber from Grants Pen named Devon Ward. Ward had been doing some 'yard work' for me and had related to me his tale of woe with the lawyer.

A few minutes later, I had Ward call her and listened on another line as she bullied her own client. "OK, I will give you a copy of the file, but it will cost you $1,000. After that, I do not wish to be disturbed anymore.'

I gave Ward the money and drove down to Duke Street. She had us waiting for an inordinately long time. At home later, I told Ward that the courts had awarded him $906,000. When he called Darby-Tulloch again, she was more restrained, but still maintained a haughty aura. "I will be in touch, Mr Ward. But please, too many calls."

A few weeks later, Ward was hit off his bicycle and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. Hit and run. I called the lawyer.

"Oh dear, I am so sad to hear about that. Please tell his girlfriend to contact me."

Ward's girlfriend made her way to Duke Street and the lawyer gave her $10,000 towards funeral expenses and told her it was a loan, to be paid back $500 per month. I told her not to pay.

In June 2002, Nancy Tulloch-Darby was disbarred by the GLC. Again, the same refrain. Misappropriation of clients' funds. The year after that, it was her husband Derrick, also a lawyer, who was in partnership with her, who was also struck off by the GLC.




Some time in 2008, I sat in the seedy-looking office of attorney-at-law Earl Melhado, and to his side sat his client, a man who had bamboozled the political directorate for years with fake degrees, including a doctorate, and had bullied his way through the system, even destroying those with genuine degrees. By then, I had developed a thick file on the man and knew that he had no defence. A few weeks after the lawyer had promised me that his client 'would provide those certificates', it was too late. His client was busted in the press.

In 2015, Earl Melhado was arrested on fraud charges and it made its way to the GLC, where he was eventually struck from the rolls, essentially barring him from practising law in Jamaica.

I have another file in front of me and each day I am reading it and trying to connect the dots. As they say in Jamaica, it nuh look pretty. The documents indicate that funds anywhere between J$50 million and J$85 million is owed to the client and he has not seen hide nor hair of it. It also includes the backdated sale of a property and an apparent forged signature.

That matter will be coming up before a certain body soon. And, the person is a public servant.