Editorial | DPP needs to say more on Cash Plus
Like a bad penny, Jamaicans can't seem to rid themselves of Carlos Hill. And they probably won't be able to do so until they are provided with further and better particulars from Paula Llewellyn. For, clearly, people have not been assuaged by what they have been told about the management of the case against Mr Hill.
Carlos Hill operated a dodgy investment company called Cash Plus, which was regulated by no one. It promised stratospheric returns to those naÔve or brave enough to put their money in it. Many people did. Cash Plus apparently had upwards of 40,000 accounts.
Yet, several serious analysts suspected that Mr Hill operated a Ponzi scheme.
A decade ago, Cash Plus went bust. Its investors were left holding the bag for an estimated J$10 billion. Mr Hill was eventually arrested and charged with fraud. Last month, after nearly a decade of stops and starts, the case against Mr Hill finally collapsed.
Or, more to the point, government prosecutors, of which Ms Llewellyn is the chief, told the court they would offer no evidence against Mr Hill. Witnesses, they explained, had not turned up and could not be found, and there was no prospect that they would ever make themselves available.
In the circumstance, Ms Llewellyn correctly outlined her obligation, in the pursuit of justice, to protecting of the rights of accused persons.
She also lectured Jamaicans about their responsibilities to the justice system, arguing that prosecutors can't conjure up guilty verdicts if citizens refused to participate as witnesses. "We were not able to wave a magic wand and provide a conviction," she said.
Not unexpectedly, the Carlos Hill matter still commands great public interest, for many reasons.
Jamaicans perceive in it another example of the apparent failure of the island's law-enforcement and justice systems, especially when they contend with high-profile and complex criminal matters. In which event, they are outsourced to the United States.
The conviction of David Smith, the operator of a major Ponzi scheme, first in the Turks and Caicos Islands and then in the US, is seen as an example. So, too, was the conviction in the US, rather than Jamaica, of the gunrunner and drug smuggler, Christopher Coke
More critically, in the absence of a logical and plausible explanation of how this matter developed and was managed, Jamaicans presume investigative and prosecutorial malfeasance in the handling of the Cash Plus-Hill case. Investigators and prosecutors must have been aware of, or should have anticipated, the high level of interest in the matter. They, therefore, would have expected close coordination to ensure the case against Mr Hill was exceedingly sound, if not water-tight.
It is perhaps in ignorance that this newspaper presumed that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP) would be the one directing or advising the police on all aspects of the investigations, and all parties would have sensed when witness availability was becoming problematic and planned contingencies or redundancies. Instead, the DPP appeared to have been ambushed at the last minute.
Moreover, the case against Mr Hill-Cash Plus arose from complaints by clients. Was there no cause relating to the operation of the business, on the basis of any law in Jamaica, that the State could have preferred charges against Mr Hill?
So that the system doesn't appear a fool, Ms Llewellyn needs to help Jamaicans understand the merits of this penny.