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Ex-mayor Haughton's nepotism case in limbo - MOCA unaware of any investigations taking place

Published:Monday | January 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater

Western Bureau:

Almost two months after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) reversed an earlier decision not to press charges against the former Lucea mayor Councillor Shernett Haughton, who is accused of unlawfully awarding J$3.7 million in parish council contracts to relatives and friends, the trail in the matter seemingly has gone cold.

Shortly after DPP Paula Llewellyn, who had ruled last April that although there was overwhelming evidence of nepotism involving the award of contracts to Haughton's relatives, it was not an offence known to the criminal law, reversed that decision in November, a file was sent to the police to investigate the matter with a view to pressing charges against the embattled ex-mayor.

In fact, shortly after the decision was reversed, Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell acknowledged receiving a case file on the matter from the DPP, but noted at the time that it was too early to say whether charges would be laid against Haughton, albeit stating that the matter would be placed into the hands of two senior investigators.

However, when The Gleaner contacted the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) on Monday regarding the status of the investigations, officers assigned to the agency said that they were unaware of any such investigation being done at this time.

Constable Dwayne Dawkins, information officer at MOCA west in Montego Bay, said, "I am not aware of any investigations taking place here, so I am suggesting you call our head office in Kingston."

But when The Gleaner contacted MOCA's head office in Kingston, officials there were also unaware of any probe.

Meanwhile, a source close to Haughton told The Gleaner on Monday that she was fully prepared to stage a vigorous defence if charges are laid against her. However, she, too, had not heard anything on the matter since last year.

The Office of the Contractor General - which had recommended that charges be laid against Haughton after it had allegedly found that 22 contracts, worth more than $3.7 million had been awarded to relatives and persons affiliated to her - had strong objections to the original ruling by the DPP and had taken the matter to court for a judicial review.

In later reversing her decision, Llewellyn agreed with Contractor General Dirk Harrison that she had erred in her earlier decision, which was favourable to Haughton, who is the councillor for the Green Island division in the Hanover Parish Council.