Former education minister charged
KINGSTON – Former education minister, Ruel Reid and the president of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Professor Fritz Pinnock, are due to appear in court “as soon as possible” after they were slapped with several charges following a police raid on their homes on Wednesday.
Reid and Pinnock were among five people detained by the police as part of their investigations into a major corruption matter.
Police have also charged Reid’s wife, Sharen and their daughter Sharell along with the Councillor of the Brown’s Town Division, Kim Brown-Lawrence.
The CMU said that it would not comment on the police investigations that have led to the arrest of its president.
In a statement late Wednesday night, police said that following interviews with police detectives, the five were charged with a range of offences, including breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency said that they would be taken to court “as soon as possible”.
Earlier, police said that they are targeting the main suspects implicated in a multi-million dollar corruption and fraudulent schemes perpetrated at the Ministry of Education, CMU and other government entities that fell under the portfolio responsibility of Reid, who was forced to resign by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in March.
Holness said then that Reid’s resignation would “ensure that any investigation into matters of concern will not be in any way impeded by his presence or oversight of the Ministry”.
Earlier this year, attorney Carolyn Chuck said her client has said he intends to cooperate fully with investigators and strongly denies the allegations being made against him.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has expressed concerns regarding the arrest of the former minister and others saying “what is interesting is that the DPP seemed to have had no additional material or evidence and what seems so unfortunate that the arrest took place which looks like Nicodemus in the night.
“I don’t get the impression that these persons are actually running away. They have made themselves available on all occasions, so in fact, if an arrest should have been made, they could easily have been asked to come in so that they could be charged.
“And in these persons’ cases, if they are to be charged . . . I suspect that they could easily have been granted their own bail. I think it’s unfortunate that it has become so salacious,” Chuck said as he also questioned the length of time the police investigation is taking to be completed.
Media reports Thursday quoted the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, as saying that her office did not make any recommendations to the police in relation to Wednesday’s operations.
Speaking on a radio programme here, she said her office had prepared a 13-page opinion that was sent to the Financial Investigations Division (FID), which indicated that more investigation was needed. She said no file was submitted to her office for further review.
The DPP also criticised the release of what she deemed sensitive information about the corruption probes in the public domain, saying this could compromise the chances of a successful trial if and when the matter goes to court.
Meantime, the general secretary of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Julian Robinson, said developments involving the former education minister demonstrate that no one is above the law “and if persons break the law, regardless of who they are, then they will be brought to justice.”
“The security forces have obviously done their thorough investigation. It’s been some time in the making and I can just encourage them to continue their professionalism and ensure that they have the evidence which can stand up in a court of law,” he said. (CMC)