Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Caricel heads to court in battle to keep cellular licence

Published:Tuesday | January 3, 2017 | 8:50 PM

Jovan Johnson, Staff Reporter

Lawyers for the embattled Symbiote Investments Limited are gearing up for a battle with the Government this Thursday in the company's bid to keep its cellular licence received in September last year.

The Jamaican authorities are facing pressure from the United States over the licence to Symbiote, trading as Caricel.

Bert Samuels from the firm Knight, Junor & Samuels confirmed today that an application is before the Jamaican Supreme Court challenging a letter from the Spectrum Management Authority advising of an investigation relating to the licence.

Symbiote feels the probe may be a prelude to the revocation of the $2.7 billion spectrum licence signed by the Andrew Holness-led administration.

However, Samuels declined to go into details on the court issue, noting that Justice Leighton Pusey had requested that the parties do not discuss the issue outside of his chambers.

The matter has been before the judge since December and a hearing is set for Thursday.


IN PHOTO: Bert Samuels

Samuels also reserved comments regarding the cancellations of the US visas of people linked to Caricel saying "there is an issue surrounding all of this".

He would however make one declaration.

"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," he said. 

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

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.


IN PHOTO: Robert Montague

Speaking on Nationwide radio this evening, 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 Caricel's licence because of security concerns.

Telephone calls to Wheatley for a comment have gone unanswered and a statement promised by Holness last December has still not been released.

The Prime Minister promised the statement after Contractor General Dirk Harrison said Holness did not give the full story when he declared in parliament in September "we did our due diligence".

At the time, Holness also said his administration did not ignore Harrison's recommendation against signing the licence.

The US Embassy in Kingston, later 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 licensing process started under the Portia Simpson Miller administration.

The embassy has not detailed its issue with the granting of the licence although Harrison had raised in his reports questions about the real operators of the company. 

Caricel's website does not give the names of its leaders only saying 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 Spectrum Management Authority, which is pursuing the investigations into the Caricel licence.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com