Thu | Jan 21, 2021

'It grieves me'... Hutchinson fends off calls for resignation over sweetheart deal

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2020 | 12:00 AM
JC Hutchinson, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries - Contributed photo

Jovan Johnson, Senior Staff Reporter

Cabinet Minister J.C. Hutchinson is fending off calls for his resignation over conflict-of-interest claims involved in the Holland Estate land deal.

The 2,400 acres of state-owned lands located in Holland, St Elizabeth, are being managed by a company of which Hutchinson's partner, Lola Marshall-Williams, is a director and shareholder.

Hutchinson yesterday issued a statement indicating that Marshall-Williams has resigned from the company because she did not want the agro-economic project at Holland to become embroiled in controversy.

READ: Partner of Cabinet Minister resigns amid concern over Holland sweetheart deal

Their son is also operating a company, Holland Farm and Garden Supplies, on the property. 

Documents reveal that Hutchinson, who has ministerial responsibility for agriculture, was instrumental in helping his partner's company get the approval to manage the lands. 

But Hutchinson, declaring that he did not know that his son was operating a business on the property, says he does not see why his resignation would be necessary.

“I don’t know what took place. The relationship with him leasing or whatever it is, I was not involved in that. I don’t know what took place. I am one who did not get involved in their business at all,” said Hutchinson, speaking on Nationwide Radio this morning.

Meanwhile, Hutchinson has admitted that he could have made a declaration to Parliament’s ethics committee on the connections he shared with Marshall-Williams.  

“It’s heart-rending knowing where I am coming from and being dragged over this thing. It grieves me,” he said.

Hutchinson is a minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

One of the ministry's entities is the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings, which has responsibility for the Government’s sugar assets.

Hutchinson maintains that there was no conflict of interest involved in his recommendation to the SCJ that possession of lands be given to Holland Producers.  

Companies Office of Jamaica records show that his son’s company and Holland Producers were registered on the same date - May 16, 2019.

READ: Leaked letter reveals Hutchinson demanded SCJ Holdings expedite land offer to sweetheart’s company

The registration followed an April 30, 2019 letter that Hutchinson wrote to SCJ urging it to give possession of the lands to his partner’s company “immediately”.

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