Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Vaz, Bicknell, Forbes face judge todaySergeant allegedly pressured to drop bribery case
Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz is vowing to fight corruption allegations hanging over himself and two other high-profile figures as they face court today on charges of perverting the course of justice.
Apart from the influential politician, high-ranking policeman Senior Superintendent James Forbes and businessman Bruce Bicknell have found themselves in trouble with the law.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ruled on Monday that the trio be charged for attempting to bribe a police sergeant attached to the Traffic Division's Elletson Road headquarters.
Both Vaz and Bicknell have vehemently denied bribing Sergeant Jubert Llewellyn, a career police officer of more than 15 years.
"I was formally advised that, arising from an investigation into a traffic violation involving my close personal friend, the DPP's office has ruled that I be charged under Section 14 (2) of the Corruption Prevention Act ... ," said Vaz.
"I ... will be vigorously contesting this charge through my attorney, Mr George Soutar, Queen's Counsel. My involvement in this matter is of a personal nature, and as such, I would never compromise myself or any public officer."
He said his enquiries into the matter were made out of concern and done openly, with no ill intent.
Speaking with The Gleaner last night, Vaz said: "My statement stands as my response to the incident. However, when I come back in another life, the only thing I will change is my name, Daryl. But I will keep everything else including my values."
For his part, Bicknell, whose family owns and operates the steel and heavy equipment firm Tank-Weld, has also reportedly denied the allegations in a statement to two police sergeants who are involved in the investigations.
Information reaching The Gleaner revealed that a Sergent Llewellyn was on duty along the Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard in east Kingston when he witnessed a speeding white SUV being driven by Bicknell.
It is alleged that the SUV was heading towards the Norman Manley International Airport at 80 kilometres per hour in a 50kph zone on the morning of Easter Monday, April 9 this year. The Gleaner understands that Llewellyn ordered the vehicle to stop and issued Bicknell with a speeding ticket.
Allegations are that Bicknell produced an envelope containing the motor vehicle documents, along with $2,000. Llewellyn reportedly brought the contents of the envelope to Bicknell's attention, after which the businessman offered the money to him.
The sergeant allegedly refused the money then alerted a senior police officer that he suspected Bicknell was trying to bribe him.
It is understood that Bicknell was taken to the Elletson Road Police Station. Forbes and other senior officers were allegedly brought to bear on the issue.
Bicknell was granted bail, although it was a public holiday.
Sources say later that day, the sergeant also received a call from a male who identified himself as Daryl Vaz. However, the police officer told Vaz he was not the arresting officer in the matter but was the complainant in the bribery case.
Later that day, Vaz reportedly visited Llewellyn at the Elletson Road station and made further appeals to the sergeant to drop the bribery case against Bicknell, but the policeman allegedly rebuffed the politician's advances.
A day later, Vaz reportedly told the sergeant that Bicknell was not in tip-top health and would not be able to cope with a prison sentence. He also cautioned that Bicknell would lose his US visa and jeopardise his business reputation.
It is understood that Vaz claimed Police Commissioner Owen Ellington had given him his blessing to "speak" with the sergeant.
As pressure allegedly mounted on Llewellyn to drop the case, he reportedly sought guidance from former Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas, who suggested that mediation be pursued.
The Gleaner understands that on April 13, Forbes agreed to facilitate the mediation and later divulged to the sergeant that the matter was "taken care of". Llewellyn reportedly met Forbes at his office in the presence of Bicknell and another business associate.
It is alleged that the sergeant refused the two men's business cards that were offered to him. He reportedly did the same when Vaz contacted him after the mediation to express his gratitude before saying he "still has something" for him. Vaz sought to assure the police officer that Bicknell would not be the source of the supposed gift.
Sometime later Llewellyn was summoned by traffic chief Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis at Elletson Road, informing him that Assistant Commissioner Justice Felice, a British police officer seconded to work with the Jamaican police and who led the anti-corruption unit, needed a statement on the issue, which led to the DPP's probe into the matter.
As at July 2012, the Anti-Corruption Branch has charged 32 police personnel and 37 civilians for corruption breaches.