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FINSAC blow - Court stops commission of enquiry

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

THE COMMISSION of enquiry into the collapse of the financial sector in the 1990s suffered a major setback yesterday when the Supreme Court granted an injunction, stopping the enquiry.

There will be no further sitting of the commission until the Judicial Review Court hears and determines the claims made against its chairman, retired Court of Appeal Judge Boyd Carey.

"It seems clearly appropriate for the plug to be pulled temporarily on these proceedings right now," Supreme Court Judge Ingrid Mangtal said when she granted the applications.

She has ordered an expedited hearing in the matter, which she said was urgent and of great importance to the public.

The application for leave to appeal to the Judicial Review Court must be made by February 18.

Four claimants, including former Finance Minister Dr Omar Davies, filed a motion earlier this month claiming that Justice Carey had had a debt with the Financial Sector Adjustment Sector (FINSAC), and was a member of family business Bev Carey and Associates, which had a debt with FINSAC.

No debt to FINSAC

The claimants, through their lawyers, asked Carey to step down but he refused. Carey issued a statement in which he said he had had no debt with FINSAC.

They took the issue to the Supreme Court and were successful yesterday in getting leave to go to the Judicial Review Court to apply for orders to quash Justice Carey's refusal to recuse himself, and also to set aside the decision of the commission members to continue with the hearings.

The judge, in granting the orders said, "If the applicants are later held by the court to be wrong in their challenge, although the commission has clearly been set up to enquire into some important matters of great concern to the nation, the proceedings of the commission would not be harmed pending that determination."

She also said that it would then allow the commission to proceed without such concern about its impartiality and without being shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty and tension.

The Supreme Court judge said that from a cost perspective, it would appear that less harm would be done by staying the proceedings now rather than allowing them to continue until the determination of the applicants' challenge. She said an examination of the budget of the enquiry as exhibited in court documents "does reveal that the expected costs of sitting each day vastly exceed the costs incurred if there is no sitting".

Later invalidated

"If the proceedings of the commission continue without being stayed but are later invalidated, there would have been a considerable waste of public and private resources."

"I dare say this country can ill afford to lose and squander any resources," the judge said.

The other claimants are former Financial Secretary Shirley Tyndall, former managing director of FINSAC Patrick Hylton, and the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation, which bought the FINSAC bad debts.

The defendants, Justice Carey, and commission members Charles Ross and Worrick Bogle were not represented at the hearing in chambers on February 5 and 9.

Deputy Solicitor General Lackson Robinson had applied for an adjournment on behalf of the defendants on February 5. The judge turned down the application and Robinson withdrew from the hearing.