Mon | Oct 21, 2019

Attorney likens CMU corruption case to a big gun without bullets

Published:Thursday | October 10, 2019 | 4:28 PM
Hugh Wildman, the attorney for Professor Fritz Pinnock, speaking with reporters outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on October 10, 2019 - Ricardo Makyn photo

Nickoy Wilson, Gleaner Writer

The attorney representing President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Professor Fritz Pinnock in his corruption matter has labelled the case against his client as “woefully inadequate”.

“For the Clerk of Court to have read out say this is what we are alleged…that is woefully inadequate. Woefully inadequate. That is just grandstanding. And that is why I say it’s a like a big gun without bullets,” Hugh Wildman told journalists moments after Pinnock was offered $2 million bail when he appeared in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

“There is nothing to substantiate those allegations. Nothing,” he continued.

Pinnock was arrested by members of the Major Organised Crime Agency (MOCA) yesterday morning resulting from a corruption probe into the Education Ministry, CMU and other agencies under the ministry.

The probe, which began last October, involves MOCA, the Financial Investigation Division  and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Division.
 
Pinnock has been charged with conspiracy to defraud, engaging in transactions involving criminal property, misconduct in a public office and corruption.

Among other things, it was alleged in court that Pinnock and former Education Minister Ruel Reid, who is facing similar charges, communicated by WhatsApp where they reportedly discussed financial transactions.

Wildman argued that the claim has not been substantiated.

“If they had evidence that Mr Reid and Professor Pinnock were communicating by WhatsApp or by phone, given the length of time that they had to do this operation, a proper investigator would have that information to confront him with it yesterday. These are text messages we got from this phone. Nothing was done like that. You get what I am saying?” Wildman said.

He added, “Because he was subjected to a lengthy question and answer, if they had done their work and that information – the law is that they should have been confronted with it. Reid and Pinnock should have been confronted with those text messages.

Reid, his wife, Sharen, and their daughter, Sharelle as well as Brown’s Town Division Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence, who were also taken in custody yesterday, were granted bail in the sums of $3 million, $1 million, $500 thousand and $1million dollars respectively.

All accused have been slapped with fraud-related offences.

Wildman also took issue with how investigators conducted yesterday’s operation which resulted in his client’s arrest.

“The search warrant was clearly in breach of the law. When you go for a search warrant, the warrant must say exactly what you intend to do and when you look at this particular warrant, they took things from the house that were not covered under the warrant. For example, the computers and all these things were not named in the warrant,” Wildman said.

The accused are scheduled to return to court on January 23, 2020.

FULL CHARGES 

Ruel Reid, 53

Charges:

· Possession of criminal property

· Conspiracy to defraud

· Engaging in transactions involving criminal property

· Misconduct in a public office

· Corruption

Professor Fritz Pinnock, 55

Charges:

· Conspiracy to defraud

· Engaging in transactions involving criminal property

· Misconduct in a public office

· Corruption

Sharen Reid, 49

Charges:

· Possession of criminal property

· Conspiracy to defraud

Sharelle Reid,  24

Charges:

· Conspiracy to defraud

· Possession of criminal property

Kim Brown Lawrence, 40

· Possession of criminal property

· Conspiracy to defraud

We want to hear from you! Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169, email us at editors@gleanerjm.com or onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com.