EDITORIAL - The funny Mr Pickersgill
Robert Pickersgill must be a funny guy. Good-for-a-laugh, ha-ha funny.
Further, it is a reasonable conclusion that, if not now, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller was, in the past, personally negligent about the management of the finances of the People's National Party (PNP), of which she is president.
First, Mr Pickersgill, the almost perennial chairman of the PNP, his logic, and what he would wish the Jamaican people to accept.
He was reported by this newspaper last Friday as, at long last, confirming that in 2007 the PNP received a US$1-million campaign donation from now-jailed Ponzi schemer David Smith. It took several weeks after it emerged that a court in the Turks and Caicos Islands was attempting to recoup the money for Mr Pickersgill and his party to determine that the money was actually received and spent.
Since we do not presume Mr Pickersgill to be callous, he must possess an extraordinary sense of humour and public leg-pulling for his otherwise egregious declaration of seeing no moral obligation on the part of the PNP to return David Smith's gift.
Mr Smith ran an unregistered financial company, Olint, that offered returns of upwards of 100 per cent of people's 'investments'. By the time of the general election of 2007, Mr Smith had long been in trouble with Jamaica's regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC).
Indeed, Olint's office had been raided by the police, and Smith had already begun to move his operation offshore while attempting to make a case in the Jamaican courts that he did not need FSC authorisation since he operated a private 'investment club' rather than a general financial-services company.
Paying its obligations
Not only was Mr Pickersgill, as he is now, a senior minister in the PNP government of the day, but was likely to have been in Parliament as Omar Davies, the finance minister at the time, defended the FSC's actions against Smith/Olint from an assault by the shadow finance minister, Audley Shaw, and PNP backbencher, Errol Ennis.
Mr Pickersgill's declaration that Olint, at the time the money was received in August 2007, was solvent and was "paying its obligations to investors as they fell due" is, in the circumstance, extremely laughable. Except that it is cynically dangerous.
But what is equally shocking is that at the time Mrs Simpson Miller, more than a year into her leadership of the PNP, was "totally unaware" of the contribution and that, up to this point, had not formulated a position on whether the money would, or should be, returned.
At the time, Smith was splashing around his victims' money - up to US$2 million to the PNP, depending on who you believe - the PNP already had the Trafigura affair on its plate - the previous year's donation of J$30 million by a Dutch firm to the party. We would have expected Trafigura to heighten Mrs Simpson Miller's interest in ensuring that all PNP funding came from legally and morally legitimate sources.
On the matter of the return of the money, the obligation and its basis are simple and clear. Smith's gift was from the proceeds of crime, whose fruits neither he nor the recipient was entitled.
Again, this matter has placed squarely on the table the urgent need for political-party and campaign-finance legislation.
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