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Caricel bosses perplexed at being named persons of interest

Published:Thursday | March 5, 2020 | 12:30 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

The principals of Symbiote Investments, the operators of Caricel, have expressed shock that they and four other business partners have been listed as persons of interest by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (C-TOC) Investigations Branch.

C-TOC said that the six – Symbiote Investments CEO Lowell Lawrence and his wife, Minette Lawrence; Livingston Hines, Eugenia Hines, Courtney Hurlock, Natalie Neil – could help them in the ongoing investigation into the raid of premises at Eastwood Avenue, St Andrew, on February 21. The raid was in relation to alleged breaches of the Telecommunications Act, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey had said.

Minette Lawrence, Symbiote’s company secretary, is listed as a director of the company along with Neil.

The Lawrences have denied that Caricel was operational since Symbiote’s licence to operate was revoked.

Lowell Lawrence has insisted that he and his wife are accessible to the police, saying that he was surprised that he and the others were named as persons of interest.

“I have no knowledge of that. We are not in hiding, and as a matter of fact, when this whole thing started, we contacted C-TOC and expressed our willingness to come in and have a talk with them,” Lawrence told The Gleaner yesterday.

Hurlock and the Hineses are listed as directors of Xtrinet, the Internet service provider that was incorporated in 2014, according to Companies Office of Jamaica records.

Mrs Lawrence said recently that when the Court of Appeal last year denied an application by Symbiote to stay the minister of science, energy and technology’s decision to revoke its telecommunications licences, it transferred its network assets to Xtrinet Limited.

“We have always insisted that we were not running that network, and we have been prepared to go and talk with them, and to date, we haven’t heard anything from anyone,” Mr Lawrence said.

The six are to report to C-TOC detectives at 45 East Queen Street, Kingston, by 10 a.m. today.

Combat-style police stormed Xtrinet’s Eastwood Avenue premises last month, conducting a raid that lasted several hours. Lawrence said his knowledge of the raid is limited to what has been reported in the media.

Last year, the Court of Appeal also refused the company’s request that a temporary stay be granted until it makes an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council.

Prior to that, the Supreme Court denied an application for judicial review of the decision by then energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley to revoke the telecommunications licence granted to Symbiote.

In 2017, Wheatley told Parliament that Symbiote had not complied with all the conditions that were attached to its domestic mobile spectrum licence.

Caricel was granted licences to operate in Jamaica by the Government in 2016 despite a contrary recommendation from the contractor general.