Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Hibbert's lawyer says there was no arrest

Published:Saturday | April 3, 2010 | 4:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Ernie Smith, the attorney for West Rural Member of Parliament Joseph Hibbert, has firmly dismissed reports that his client was arrested during an interrogation exercise on Thursday.

Smith said he was with Hibbert throughout a near three-hour-long interview at the office of the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID).

This forms part of the probe into allegations that Hibbert accepted bribes from the British bridge-building firm Mabey and Johnson as a senior public servant employed by the Ministry of Transport and Works in the 1990s.

Hibbert was employed as the chief technical director in the ministry during the People's National Party administration.

Misleading impression

Smith told The Gleaner that the exercise was conducted by Inspector Clarence Bailey of the OCID.

He complained that the "grossly misleading impression" was conveyed that there had been a raid on Hibbert's eastern St Andrew home.

However, the attorney claimed that this was not the case, as the police had requested a meeting with Hibbert for Wednesday, but the date was not convenient.

Smith said investigators agreed to meet with him to set a new date, but instead, they turned up at his home before dawn, without due notice.

However, Smith had high praise for Bailey, who he characterised as professional.

Smith told The Gleaner that the interview started between 11 and 11:30 in the morning and ended between 2 and 2:30 p.m.

He attributed the length of time to the number of questions which were asked of Hibbert.

According to Smith, 75 questions were handwritten and the responses from Hibbert were also penned.

He said the questions were similar to ones asked by the Office of the Contractor General.

"It was routine and has not made any addition or subtraction from what came out of that interview," Smith asserted.

Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn ruled two weeks ago that the police should investigate the corruption allegations.

Hibbert admitted that when he was the technical director in the transport ministry he took money from Mabey and Johnson.

Reimbursement

In a statement to the Office of the Contractor General, Hibbert reportedly said the money was reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses and was not a bribe, as was being alleged.

Llewellyn said there was not sufficient evidence to support the claims that Hibbert had accepted bribes to secure contracts for Mabey and Johnson. But she asserted that there was evidence that Mr Hibbert did engage in corrupt practices.

She says the enquiry should be pursued for possible breaches committed between 2000 and 2003 under the Corruption Prevention Act.

The material was based primarily on documents and statements gathered by the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office.

But Llewellyn contended that without more evidence, the material could not be used as the basis for criminal prosecution in the Jamaican courts.

She also says a report by the contractor general on the matter could not be used.