Tue | Aug 22, 2017

'We will be fearless' - Visa cancellations will not cause Caricel lawyers to drop client

Published:Wednesday | January 4, 2017 | 1:52 AMJovan Johnson
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels

Lawyers for embattled Symbiote Investments Limited, the company with Jamaica’s third cellular licence, are gearing up for round two tomorrow, in a battle with the Government to keep the licence that has brought United States pressure on Jamaican authorities.

Bert Samuels of law firm Knight, Junor & Samuels confirmed yesterday that an application is before the Jamaican Supreme Court challenging a letter from the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) advising of an investigation relating to the licence. Symbiote, which trades as Caricel, feels that probe is leading to the revocation of the $2.7 billion licence signed by the Andrew Holness administration in September.

Samuels, however, declined to go into details about the court issue, noting that Justice Leighton Pusey had requested, and they agreed, not to discuss the issue outside of his chambers. Samuels also had this to say regarding the cancellations of US visas of people linked to Caricel:

“There is an issue surrounding all of this,” he told The Gleaner. “There has been cancellations of the visas of civilians and attorneys. We, from Knight, Junor & Samuels, just want to place on record that no foreign state will be capable of using travel privileges that our firm may have to cause us to give our brief back to our clients.

“We will be fearless and we will move forward with representing our clients as attorneys because we have a sworn duty.”

The matter has been before the judge since December. Another hearing is set for tomorrow.

In recent weeks, the US revoked the visitors’ visas of six prominent Jamaicans, including three senior attorneys, in what sources have said is a warning to the Holness administration over its failure to cancel the licence granted to the Jamaican company.

Speaking yesterday evening on Nationwide radio, National Security Minister Robert Montague refused to address reports that he wrote to Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley advising that steps be taken to revoke the licence out of security concerns.

Telephone calls to Wheatley for a comment have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, a statement that Holness said last December would come from the minister has still not been released.

That intervention from the prime minister followed revelations from Contractor General Dirk Harrison that Holness did not give the full story when he declared in Parliament in September that “we did our due diligence” and his administration was ignoring Harrison’s recommendation not to sign the licence.

The US Embassy in Kingston, too, made the rare step of commenting publicly, via Twitter, that it shared the concerns of the contractor general, who had issued a July report urging Wheatley not to go ahead with the process started under the Portia Simpson Miller administration.

The embassy has not said exactly what issue its government has with the licence, although Harrison had raised questions in his reports about the real operators of the company. Caricel’s website does not give the names of its leaders, only that it has an “executive management team and board of directors”.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who had advised the Government to go ahead with the licence, is representing the SMA, which is pursuing the investigations of the Caricel licence.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com