Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Attorney finds arrest of former INSPORTS financial controller ‘curious’

Published:Saturday | April 22, 2023 | 1:07 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

The attorney for one of the accused in the $222-million Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) fraud case has described his client’s arrest as “most curious”.

Andrew Wright, former financial controller at INSPORTS, was arrested this week while the Industrial Disputes Tribunal was hearing a wrongful dismissal case he brought against the state-owned agency, his attorney Neco Pagan disclosed on Friday.

“Interesting,” Pagan said as Wright and his four co-accused made their first appearance in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

He noted, also in court, that the police Fraud Squad had been investigating the INSPORTS fraud allegations “and nothing came of the matter”.

Wright, Rudolph Barnes, Oneil Hope, Jonnique Mills and Andrea Picton are accused of being part of a team of former INSPORTS employees who wrote, signed and cashed fraudulent cheques for payees who were neither employed nor contracted to the agency.

They are facing charges of conspiracy to defraud; acquisition, use and possession of criminal property; engaging in transactions involving criminal property; and larceny as a servant.

The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) says the alleged fraudulent scheme spans the period 2011 to 2017.

All five have been remanded until next Wednesday when their attorneys are expected to make bail applications.

Extradition warrants

The clerk of the court indicated that extradition warrants were being prepared for three other suspects in the alleged scheme.

On Friday, Pagan and the attorneys for the other accused persons were livid that no one from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) showed up in court to allow for the bail applications.

It was indicated in court that the prosecutor would not be available until Wednesday.

According to Pagan, MOCA began investigating in 2017 and submitted a case file to the ODPP two years later.

One year after the file was submitted, he said the Financial Investigations Division (FID), through the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), went to the Supreme Court with the INSPORTS fraud allegations and got a restraint order that froze Wright’s assets.

The Proceeds of Crime Act allows the FID to obtain a restraint or freezing order for assets believed to have been derived from criminal conduct. Where conviction is secured another application may be made to have the assets forfeited.

Pagan said Wright became aware of the freezing order in May 2020 and “vigorously contested” it in court.

The restraint order on Wright’s assets was lifted in July 2020 by then High Court judge Justice David Fraser, the attorney said.

A month later, Wright filed a lawsuit against the ARA and the Government for malicious procurement of the restraint order, Pagan said. That case has not yet been heard.

“Now, the very same material the ARA relied on to obtain the restraint order is, I would imagine, the very same material they are relying on today,” he said.

The Gleaner understands that Hope won a $2.7-million award for wrongful dismissal from the agency.