Turks and Caicos judge delivers mixed verdict in government corruption case
A nearly decade-long corruption case involving top government officials and attorneys in the Turks and Caicos Islands ended on Monday with a mixed verdict for those accused of bribery, money laundering and other charges.
The case had sparked outraged across the archipelago, which came under direct rule by the British government in 2009 after it found widespread corruption in the Caribbean British territory.
Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang found former Deputy Premier Floyd Hall guilty of bribery and of concealing the proceeds of criminal conduct. He was found not guilty of three counts of conspiracy to defraud.
His attorney, Earl Witter, did not respond to messages for comment.
Agyemang also found attorney Clayton Greene guilty of concealing the proceeds of criminal conduct. His lawyer did not respond to a message for comment.
In addition, Agyemang found former government minister Jeffrey Hall and attorney Melbourne Wilson not guilty of conspiracy to defraud. Hall’s attorney, Ian Wilkinson, told The Associated Press that his client is grateful for a “just and true verdict”.
“He had maintained his innocence from the beginning and is happy to have been vindicated,” Wilkinson said, adding that Hall would speak further at a later date.
Wilson’s attorney did not respond to a message for comment.
The suspects had been arrested after the British government suspended the Turks and Caicos government in August 2009 and imposed direct rule, following a commission of inquiry that found systemic corruption in the Caribbean British territory.
Most of the corruption consisted of bribery by overseas developers and others to secure government land on “favourable terms, coupled with government approval for its commercial development”, according to the commission’s report.
A 2009 interim report also found “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence”.
The charges against the accused were first filed in 2011, with the prosecution requesting that a trial without jury be held. It argued that the case was complex, had received a lot of publicity, and that it was impossible to find an impartial jury.
The judge acknowledged the complexity of the case, saying “it may present an onerous and, frankly quite impossible task for a jury to apprehend”.
“This is to say nothing of the (145-page) opening speech of the prosecution, which is not likely to be remembered by the average juryman,” Agyemang wrote in a June 2021 ruling.
Floyd Hall had been accused of accepting bribes from developers and of conspiring with former Premier Michael Misick in defrauding the Turks and Caicos Islands in deals involving government-owned land.
Misick was arrested in Brazil in December 2012 and later extradited to the Turks and Caicos Islands. He, along with other suspects, including former natural resources minister McAllister Hanchell, is facing charges in the same case, although they will be tried in a separate trial to be held in upcoming months.
Misick has previously denied wrongdoing.
Both cases have been repeatedly delayed for various reasons, including the death of a trial judge and the fainting of one defence attorney while questioning his client in court.