Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter
Charges have been dropped against five men accused of involvement in the 2008 theft of $70 million worth of sand from a property at Coral Springs, Trelawny, after death threats were issued against the key witness in the case.
The stolen sand has been estimated at between 10,000 to 15,000 cubic yards.
When the men appeared yesterday in the Falmouth Resident Magistrate's Court, Trelawny, Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Diahann Gordon-Harrison told the court that the Crown could not proceed with the charges of simple larceny and conspiracy to steal the sand.
She explained that the virtual complainant, who is one of the directors of Felicitas Ltd, owners of the beach in Coral Springs, had indicated that he had received threats that he would be killed if he came forward to give evidence in the matter. Gordon-Harrison told Resident Magistrate Icolin Reid that because of the unavailability of the witness and having reviewed the file, she formed the view that there would not be enough evidence to establish a prima facie case or prove all the ingredients for the larceny charge.
Failed to testify
Gordon-Harrison disclosed that in her push to go ahead with the matter, she and Crown Counsel Loxley Ricketts had extensive discussions with the complainant and his lawyer. She said despite the discussions, the complainant failed to come forward to testify because he said the "threats were real and specific and of a very grave and concrete nature".
The deputy DPP said based on the circumstances, she was entering a nolle prosequi (no prosecution) in the matter.
Those accused of being involved in the theft of the sand were Devon Sterling, Christopher Pryce, Desford Cooke, Edrick Grey and Anthony Hilton.
Sterling and Pryce are the two principals of Bedrock Building and Aggregates Limited.
Gordon-Harrison told the court that the Crown was pursuing the summary offences of mining sand without a licence against the five men.
They were ordered to return to court on March 4 in respect of those charges. The case against the men was transferred from the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court to Trelawny.
The defence lawyers are challenging the validity of the information in relation to the charges. They are contending that the information was sworn to before a justice of peace (JP) in Kingston and attempts could, therefore, not be made now to cure the defect by having the information sworn to before a JP in Trelawny. The prosecutors are opposing the application on the basis that the information can be sworn to by a JP in Trelawny.
The men were arrested based on allegations that in 2008, the company was hired by some hotels to source sand. The sand was allegedly stolen from a property in Coral Springs which was being developed by Felicitas. It was further alleged that Bedrock Building and Aggregates Ltd, in turn, sought contractors to help remove the sand from a site in Trelawny. The sand was allegedly stolen between May and June 2008.
Arising from the removal of the sand, Felicitas had filed suits against several hotels. The suits are pending in the Supreme Court.