Tue | Apr 21, 2015

PNP lawyers claim diplomatic immunity in Trafigura case

Published:Tuesday | September 25, 2012

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

Lawyers representing the People's National Party (PNP) in the $31-million Trafigura matter argued yesterday that because some of the claimants were members of the Cabinet, they had diplomatic immunity.

They said the claimants could not be called upon to answer questions in court.

Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, who is representing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Robert Pickersgill, chairman of the PNP, raised the legal point when the hearing commenced in the Constitutional Court. Pickersgill is also a Cabinet minister.

Samuels said when the order was made for them to answer questions in court, they were not members of the Cabinet, but their status changed in January this year when they became Cabinet members. He said under the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act, no person shall be compelled to give evidence which he could not be compelled to give in a criminal proceeding in Jamaica or in a foreign state.

The court said the point in relation to diplomatic immunity was one that could be heard during the course of the argument.

Yesterday, Samuels applied for an adjournment because Queen's Counsel K.D. Knight was in Guyana sitting on a commission of enquiry into the police shooting of protesters on July 18.

Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Caroline Hay opposed the application on the basis that the date was set from January.

APPLICATION TURNED DOWN

The Court comprising Justices Horace Marsh, Leighton Pusey and Marva McDonald Bishop turned down the application.

After the luncheon adjournment, Samuels told the court that he was going to represent Simpson Miller and Pickersgill. The PNP is challenging an order for several of its members to answer questions relating to the controversial $31-million donation by Trafigura.

It is illegal for Dutch companies to donate to political parties. At the time of the donation in 2006, Trafigura had an oil-lifting contract with the PNP administration.

Yesterday, attorney-at-law Deborah Martin argued that the claimants were stripped of their constitutional rights when they were ordered to answer questions in relation to the Trafigura probe by Dutch authorities. She will continue her submissions when the hearing continues tomorrow.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com