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Probe into sale of Heathrow slots stalled

Published:Sunday | April 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

UK fails to provide information which could lead to charges against local MP

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The failure of United Kingdom (UK) authorities to provide Jamaica with statements from two highly placed British officials has stalled the probe into the 2007 sale of two slots at the Heathrow Airport in London held by then national airline, Air Jamaica.

Local investigators need the two statements to determine if charges should be laid against Jamaican officials, including a member of parliament, who participated in the sale of the slots to Virgin Atlantic for £5.1 million (US$10.2 million).

More than one year ago, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) made a request to the British authorities for the two statements, but so far these have not been provided.

According to Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Caroline Hay, she submitted the formal request to the UK authorities during a trip to London in March 2011.

"The request was handed over personally to the UKCA (United Kingdom Central Authority) by me," Hay told Sunday Gleaner reporters and editors during a meeting last week.

"We indicated the sensitivity of it because it was an investigation which involved then, a sitting member of parliament," said Hay as she refused to name the member of parliament.

According to Hay: "We got acknowledgement of the request and we followed up several times in writing ... but we haven't received a response."

In 2009, the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), following a probe, reported that the process of evaluation, selection and approval of the Virgin Atlantic proposal, in respect of the sale of the Air Jamaica Limited Heathrow slots, lacked transparency, fairness and impartiality.

The OCG concluded that the decision to sell the slots to Virgin Atlantic was not based on merit and was improper and irregular and, consequently, unlawful.

Two years ago, the police said they were building a paper trail for a case against the former finance minister, Omar Davies.

preparing statement

At that time, Christie told our news team that the OCG was working with his attorneys to prepare a witnessed statement, which was requested by the police. DPP Paula Llewellyn said the case could not proceed until the police received the witnessed statement because the OCG's report would not suffice.

Last Thursday, Christie told our news team that the witnessed statement was delivered to the police. "We have given them everything they asked for. It is no longer with us. That is between the director of public prosecutions and the police. We don't know where it is at," said Christie.

The DPP had previously stated that after statements and other material have been collected in the case against Davies, the police are empowered to charge without referring the matter back to her office for such a determination.

Meanwhile, Davies has argued in the past that any incorrect statement he made to the OCG would be a genuine mistake, as his files had been left at his former office and he was going from memory.