Sun | May 16, 2021

Ruel Reid, others head to Privy Council

Published:Friday | February 5, 2021 | 12:13 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Embattled former education minister Ruel Reid and his four co-accused will be challenging the validity of their fraud and corruption prosecution at the United Kingdom-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The disclosure was made on Thursday by Hugh Wildman, defence attorney for the accused, after they were on Thursday dealt another blow in their quest to have the fraud case quashed.

Chief Parish Judge Chester Crooks ruled that the matter was properly before the court and that the case ought to proceed to trial in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

But Wildman has insisted that the charges against his client should be nullified, claiming that the Financial Investigation Division (FID) had no authority in law to arrest or bring charges against the accused.

His arguments have been rejected in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

“It’s the first time the FID Act is being considered in such manner by the courts, and we maintained that there is nothing in the act that says that anybody can charge anybody for any criminal offence,” he told the media following the judge’s ruling.

Wildman likened the situation to a previous, but unrelated, ruling against the Independent Commission of Investigations’ standing in preferring charges.

“We think we are on good grounds here in going forward with this matter to say that we need to go to the Privy Council,” he said.

The firebrand attorney said that the defence team was now awaiting a date from the Court of Appeal to take the matter to the Privy Council.

“I think there are serious legal issues to be dealt with here as to the jurisdiction of the FID and authorised office, etc, and we maintain that it’s not a criminal statute that’s authorised by any authorised officers, acting on the act, to pursue any criminal charges,” Wildman charged.

Wildman also took issue with the fact that the judge did not provide any reason/s, written or otherwise, for his adverse decision. The attorney described the decision as “unfortunate” and “regrettable”.

Meanwhile, Judge Crooks, following his ruling, informed the court that he would be recusing himself from the matter as one of the accused was a close associate.

Reid, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, along with Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) President Professor Fritz Pinnock, and Brown’s Town division Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence, are facing corruption charges, including conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law, and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act. They were charged in connection with a major fraud and corruption probe by the FID involving transactions at the CMU.

Following the judge’s ruling in court on Thursday, the prosecutor informed the court that the Crown’s case was not completed.

A new mention date was set for July 27 for case management. Bail of the accused was extended.

Attorney Carolyn Chuck is also part of the defence team.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com