Sun | Jun 16, 2019

FID wrestling for documents in Reid probe

Published:Tuesday | June 11, 2019 | 12:24 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Reid

The Financial Investigations Division (FID), the agency leading the sprawling corruption probe around sacked education minister Ruel Reid, has quietly gone to court and obtained orders to compel a number of individuals and entities to turn over crucial documents to investigators.

Further, FID boss Robin Sykes has dismissed speculation that the investigation is being hampered by political interference.

“We have not experienced any political interference,” Sykes insisted yesterday.

The disclosures come amid reports by senior law enforcement sources that documents critical to the probe of alleged improprieties at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and a number of related agencies have gone missing and that some of the persons targeted have directed investigators to their attorneys.

“In some cases, the people are still in place. Documents have gone missing and everybody has lawyered up,” one source told The Gleaner last Friday.

Sykes, the chief technical director of the FID, yesterday declined to discuss reports about missing documents, but confirmed that investigators have “obtained and served several court orders for the production of documents”.

“We have done several activities and operations and we are analysing copious amounts of financial data,” Sykes told The Gleaner.

Reid, an educator and former senator, was asked by the prime minister to tender his resignation as education minister on March 20 amid swirling allegations of impropriety at several agencies under his portfolio, including Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), the HEART Trust/NTA, and the National Education Trust.

Among the issues under the microscope, insiders indicated at the time, is a three-year contract valued at $5.1 million per annum which the CMU gave Othneil Lawrence, former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member of parliament for North West St Ann, to serve as an adviser to the east Kingston-based institution.

The contract was signed on April 1 last year, and nearly three months later, on June 24, the JLP announced that Reid was appointed to replace Lawrence as the constituency caretaker.

But with very little public update, except for confirmation from Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson that Reid is the subject of a criminal investigation, the FID is facing heat over the slow pace of the probe.

Last week, lawmakers on the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament complained about the snail’s pace at which probes by state investigative agencies were progressing and floated the idea of summoning them to Gordon House to explain the delays.

However, the FID boss revealed that the agency has committed nearly all its resources to the investigation and is being careful to ensure that investigators build a solid case.

“We continue our work on the matter and we have taken numerous statements,” Sykes disclosed.

According to law-enforcement sources, investigators have been working closely with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which could soon be asked to rule on whether criminal charges should flow from the probe.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com