Court reserves ruling in Trafigura case
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
The Constitutional Court has reserved judgment in the application brought by the People’s National Party (PNP) challenging an order for several of its members to answer questions relating to the Trafigura case.
The parties completed their legal arguments today, and the judges are expected to hand down a ruling soon.
Dutch authorities want to question PNP President Portia Simpson Miller, party chairman Robert Pickersgill, and senior members Colin Campbell and Phillip Paulwell about a $31 million dollar donation to the party by Dutch company Trafigura Beheer.
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.
At the start of the matter last week Monday, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, who is representing Simpson Miller and Pickersgill argued that they cannot be called upon to give evidence in relation to Trafigura as they have diplomatic immunity.
Samuels contended that by virtue of the fact that they are members of the Cabinet, Simpson Miller and Pickersgill cannot be compelled to respond to questions from the Dutch authorities.
He also told the judges that if his clients were required to give statements in open court which resulted in the criminal indictment of other people, it could invite reprisals.
Attorney-at-law Deborah Martin who is representing the other two claimants contended that her clients are only being asked to respond to questions in relation to the Trafigura probe because of politics.
But in her argument, Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Caroline Hay said the PNP officials were not being treated as suspects.
Hay also said the documents in the possession of the DPP do not reveal any criminality of the part of the suspects.
She also said no evidence had been presented that it was likely to lead to inequitable and inhumane treatment if the proceedings remained in open court.
Hay also responded to Samuel’s comment regarding the likelihood that his clients could face threats if they gave certain statements in open court.
According to Hay, the comment could have far-reaching implications for the administration of justice in Jamaica.
Hay also said the claimants did not make use of the opportunity to have the questions answered in private.
Justice Leighton Pusey, one of the judges on the panel, said he understood Samuels to be saying that his clients were being asked to give statements in public and if that was done it would be unnecessary exposure.
Pusey further noted that what Samuels said was not wide enough to cover witnesses in general.