Sun | Jan 20, 2019

No saving probe - Bunting says he tried to rescue investigation of official

Published:Monday | August 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

Former National Security Minister Peter Bunting has revealed that shortly after taking office in January 2012, he tried to salvage a police investigation that targeted a Jamaican official.

The probe was being led by Les Green, then assistant commissioner of police (ACP), who has claimed publicly that police investigators found sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the official.

However, in a letter to The Gleaner and in an article published in the Miami Herald newspaper, Green charged that the case collapsed in late 2011 after the Ministry of National Security refused a request to have two key witnesses placed on the Witness Protection Programme.

Added to that, the former ACP revealed that he was completely surprised by what he described as a "last-minute" decision not to renew his contract.

Bunting could not recall seeing the documents related to the request made by the police, but said when he took charge of the ministry and learnt of the situation, he gave Green two clear commitments.

"I indicated to Mr Green that I would support the renewal of his contract and that we would be able to offer protection to the witnesses," he told The Gleaner.

"In essence, reversing the decision the ministry had taken ... . But by that time, the witnesses were already spooked," the former minister added.

Bunting said he later wrote to the Police Service Commission expressing support for the renewal of Green's contract.

"I thought that Mr Green was making an important contribution," he said in seeking to explain his actions.

Notwithstanding, Bunting said six months into the new contract, a frustrated Green decided he could no longer continue.

Green confirmed that after the change of administration in December 2011, he was offered a contract by the "incoming minister of national security", but said by then, "the damage had already been done".

The investigation against the Jamaican official is back in the spotlight because of allegations that were revived in the Miami Herald article published last week Sunday. The article cited allegations made by the two witnesses and raised questions about the handling of the case by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

However, the nation's chief prosecutor, Paula Llewellyn, has defended her office's handling of the case, explaining that a review of the materials provided by investigators suggested that the witnesses had credibility issues and that there was need for independent "corroborative material".

Minister of National Security Minister Robert Montague told The Gleaner last week that he has asked Dianne McIntosh, acting permanent secretary in the ministry, to review the file related to the case.

However, Bunting, in his most strident criticism to date, said he wants to see an independent external review of the conduct of the ministry and the political directorate at the time.

"The combination of not renewing the contract of the lead investigator and refusing to offer protection to key witnesses could suggest a conspiracy to frustrate the investigation," he said.

"Maybe a retired judge could have a look at it."