Hill free - Former Cash Plus boss walks as fraud case collapses
Locksley Comrie, a former Jamaican football administrator, was furious yesterday as he watched Carlos Hill, founder of the Cash Plus scheme in which he had invested US$10 million, walk out of the Home Circuit Court a free man.
"I invested ten million [expletive] dollars and don't get back a penny," Comrie, who is uses a wheelchair, shouted outside the court after prosecutors announced that they were offering no evidence against Hill.
But prosecutors later revealed that even with his mammoth investment there is no record that Comrie gave a statement to police investigators probing the collapse of the unregulated scheme.
Paula Llewellyn, the country's top prosecutor who came under fire immediately after Justice Chester Stamp told Hill he was free to go, said Comrie's situation is the "ultimate example of disengagement" from the judicial process by citizens.
"We have to look at the elephant in the room and citizens of this country rather than seeking to berate the prosecution because we were not able to wave the magic wand and provide a conviction. They have to understand that you cannot get a conviction against another citizen in the criminal courts unless you are prepared to give evidence," Llewellyn told The Gleaner yesterday.
Hill was arrested and charged in April 2008 after the Cash Plus scheme began to unravel. He was charged with fraudulently and attempting to fraudulently induce persons to invest in the unregulated investment scheme which promised investors significant returns on their deposit over a short period.
After a nine-year delay, the trial finally got under way with the selection of a seven-member jury in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston yesterday, but in less than an hour, it was over.
Addley Duncan, assistant director of public prosecutions and one of the two prosecutors assigned to the case, revealed that only two of the 16 witnesses down to give evidence had confirmed that they would attend.
"Today, only one person has come to give evidence. Even if we were to put that witness in the [witness] box, we would need to call people who were working inside Cash Plus who knew the financial runnings of Cash Plus," said Duncan. She noted that no former employee of the entity had come forward to testify.
He said that testimony would be critical to show that at the time Hill was promising investors large returns on their money, he could not have fulfilled those promises. "People who could say nutten nuh go so," he underscored.
'This man in a wheelchair because of you'
"We looked at the case and realised that based on the evidence we have, we cannot prove the case," Duncan said before announcing he was offering no evidence against Hill.
As the former Cash Plus boss left the courtroom, he was greeted by angry persons claiming to have suffered significant losses as a result of the scheme.
"Let me ask you one question, 'How do you feel?,'" one woman asked him.
"You are a wicked bastard! Look at this man in a wheelchair because of you!" said another woman, referring to Comrie.
Outside the courtroom, Hill refused to answer questions from reporters, saying only that he wants to compensate investors. "That will definitely happen, especially now that this is behind me, we can concentrate on that," he said before being whisked away in a cab.
More than 40,000 investors are still owed some $10 billion dollars.