Let's bear in mind that with those individuals on trial, the Crown's case comprises mere accusations. And as in all other criminal trials, there is and has to be the presumption of innocence, until proven guilty. Justice – the proper administration of the law, with fair and equitable treatment under the law – is wished for the defendants all.
The Progressive National Party (PNP) lies at the centre of the current mega corruption trial. In the Crown’s case, Michael Misick, four of his five cabinet members and four others, at least six of the nine defendants were high-ranking officers and members of the PNP during the alleged crime spree.
The prosecution is alleging in its case for the people and against these individuals, and is prepared to present proof that more than $13 million of questionable money appearing to be the proceeds of bribes, shakedowns and kickbacks, was deposited into PNP bank accounts. Money that, in turn, "was quickly disbursed to the personal uses of the politicians."
Those benefitting from the greater portion of the funds, include the premier and four of his ministers – Floyd Hall, Jeffrey Hall, Lillian Boyce and McAllister Hanchell – at least ten party supporters in South Caicos; $200,000 from Turks Ltd went toward the construction of the PNP's headquarters in Providenciales; $50,000 for the premier's 2005 Christmas party, from the Salt Cay project; and Michael Misick and Floyd Hall received $100,000 and $50,000 respectively out of a $200,000 party donation from Richard Padgett, believed to be a bribe connected to his East Caicos land purchase.
Prosecutor Mitchell does point out the huge difference between PDM donations during the same period – leading up to the 2007 general elections – of some $1.3 million, and the $13.6 million deposited into the bank accounts of the PNP. The PDM had less than 10% of what the PNP was able to raise.
Perhaps quite understandably, the difference in campaign treasuries, especially in light of the corruption charges from which most of the PNP's elections money seemed to have emanated, raised eyebrows in TCI when revealed. There was much concern amongst the former candidates who opposed the PNP during those years; seemingly relating to what probability, if any, could the elections have been fair with such a financial advantage by the PNP.
One question being increasingly asked now is: Should the allegations being made by the Crown turn out to be the true, resulting in convictions of the accused, would it be fair to label the PNP a corrupt entity? And should there be appropriate measures taken, including recouping monies and property – as has been done with its headquarters built on the people's land without proper acquisition – determined to be gained illegally? The party, to be sure, should no more benefit than the individuals being charged, from sale of the people's land, shorted customs duties for developers, and what should have been scholarship funds. The developers instead paid bribes to the accused, representing far less than they would have otherwise paid to the treasury.
If indeed "pay to play" was the policy of the government of the day; and the members of the government were the heads of the PNP; and the PNP was used to routinely facilitate the "pay to play" policy, then "pay to play" was also the policy of the PNP. Plain and simple. It is not as if a few individuals that were mere members of the party were engaged in corrupt practices, and the party was in no way used to facilitate that corruption, or that leadership of the party was ignorant of what was going on. Those in the leadership are the alleged culprits.
There is increasing fear among PNP muckamucks that the "feelings of hostility and antipathy towards [Michael Misick]", according to his lawyer, Ralph Thorne, QC, will soon carry over to their party itself, affecting its following. Should these numerous corruption-related allegations that include: conspiracy to receive bribes; conspiracy to defraud; conspiracy to disguise the proceeds of crime; concealing the proceeds of criminal conduct; entering into a money laundering arrangement; conspiracy to conceal or transfer the proceeds of criminal conduct; converting or transferring the proceeds of criminal conduct; dealing with the proceeds of criminal conduct; acquiring the proceeds of criminal conduct; entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement; using the proceeds of criminal conduct, be proven true, one could very easily understand any feelings of hostility and antipathy towards the accused and the PNP.
Mr Thorne, in encapsulating the imagined, or real feelings resulting from alleged criminal conduct of his client, somewhat reminds one of a previous lawyer for Misick, who so eloquently described why a trial by jury would not be in his client's best interest during the Commission of Inquiry. I wonder, can it be said that Michael knows just how to pick them.
Through this all too, it has to be understood that the great majority of those that consider themselves to be PNPs are honest, hardworking and caring individuals that, just like the rest of us, were until now unaware that their party had been hijacked by a small handful of bad guys and gals, using it as a tool to facilitate their corrupt activities, allegedly enriching themselves. They were for example:
• Unaware that their government and party chose to ignore "6,000 Belonger applications for Crown Land..." leaving them "unanswered over the years of Mr Misick's premiership".
• That the PNP account at the British Caribbean Bank was credited with $5.6 million it received between June 2002 and February 2007. And that in 2006 alone, two PNP accounts at British Caribbean Bank and First Caribbean International Bank respectively, were credited with $3.1 million.
• That their PNP benefited between 2002 and 2010 from questionable income in excess of $13.5 million; this compared to the PDM's $1.69 million, and meant that during the 2007 elections, the PDM had $186 per elector, while the PNP had $1,148 per elector. (Although most of these funds were dished out to the accused for their personal benefit.)
• That thousands of acres of Crown land had been "flipped", resulting in millions of dollars going into the pockets of their elected PNP representatives, their families and certain party members.
• That we the people paid for Michael Misick's wedding, his private jet, and his Christmas parties.
• That we all paid for the PNP's headquarters building.
• That the land transactions with Mario Hoffman in Salt Cay, allegedly resulted in 122 acres of Crown land being sold to the developer at a knockdown price; meaning that the TCI government lost $6.83 million. While the then premier benefitted from a $6 million loan that was apparently never repaid.
• That between 17 November 2006 and 10 April 2008 (shortly before construction on the West Caicos site ceased) Michael Misick and McAllister Hanchell allegedly received $4.2 million between them, directly or indirectly, from middleman Harold Charles.
And shouldn't the Turks and Caicos people be angry at the party that brought them:
• A disgraced chief minister and a disgraced premier;
• Two interim governments;
• At least two recent questionable election victories – 2003 and 2007;
• The Interhealth Canada 30-bed hospital half a billion dollar healthcare scheme, leaving many without access to healthcare;
• And now this mega corruption scandal, seemingly destined to be our scandal of the century -- let's hope they never outdo themselves; with the potential of seeing a former premier, and four fifths of his cabinet being convicted.
So, is the PNP a corrupt party? You be the judge.