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.
Andrew Mitchell QC’s opening statement on 21 January 2016 continued with a litany of alleged accusations against the elected governments of the Turks and Caicos Islands between 2003 and 2009. And putting it rather mildly, what we are hearing from Mr Mitchell is nothing less than horrible.
Should, God forbid, these accusations turn out to be true, what we had been claiming to be governments at the time, would more resemble a criminal enterprise of the worst kind. With the exception of the killings of course, one may easily be reminded of mafia movies, circa the 30s and 40s.
One is also left to wonder here just when did those politicians elected by the Turks and Caicos people find the time to serve the interests of their people and country. When so much of their time, including reducing the amount of scholarship funds offered by developers and putting the difference in their own pockets, was devoted to enriching themselves.
What there seemed to be during that period, for the very first time in these Turks and Caicos Islands – and let us hope and pray we will never see again – is a culture of rampant and unbridled greed, coupled with a total disregard for laws they, our elected government, had promised and sworn to uphold.
Worse yet, this did not develop – again, if this all turns out to be true – after the PNP came to power in 2003, under questionable circumstances, no less. They came to power with it all in mind and already in action; and as if corruption was an unwritten plank in their election platform, which the Crown seems poised to show.
General elections took place in the Turks and Caicos on April 4, 2003. The PDM won a narrow majority; the PNP accused the PDM of bribing – nothing less than funny, as could be shortly proven – two strung out substance abusers, and to the chagrin of many, the chief justice ruled in their favour, resulting in a by-election. The PNP subsequently won both seats handily, and the rest as they say, is history. History that will remain a huge blot on our country's reputation that will outlive us all.
Mr Mitchell's opening statement of January 21, claims that:
• On 12 February 2003, $50,000 from Precon [Finance Limited] made a payment to a PNP account. The Crown’s case is that the money, minus bank charges, is seen arriving in the PNP’s account.
• [From that] On 13 February $8,000 was transferred to MM (the Crown’s case is that FH signed this cheque) and $5,000 went to FH via cheque.
• On 27 March 2003, $50,000 was paid by Precon to Paradigm. This payment was distributed from Paradigm on 31 March 2003 as follows:
"Cheque number 1007 for $20,000 payable to the PNP; the cheque was not, it appears deposited into either PNP account, although it was attached to a BCB debit voucher when retrieved from the Paradigm records. It is a mystery as to where that money went. There is a stamp in the middle of the cheque, dated March 31 2003. We don’t find it going in to the PNP account. It would have been lodged in an account, but we don’t know which."
Continues Mr Mitchell, "The cheque is stamped as accepted at the bank, and a draft is issued for $20,000, that is not traceable. Cannot say whether it ended up going into another account or in cash, we do not know."
That money could have gone to anyone; and no doubt that will remain as big a mystery as who was "Deep Throat" during the Watergate debacle. And again, these two $50,000 transactions were on February 12 and 13, 2003; and the elections took place on April 4, 2003, less than two months later. Influence was being peddled even prior to the elections, according to the Crown.
Could this have possibly been the real reason there had to be a by-election that could not be lost? The then chief justice is now deceased.
Typical of the numerous accusations being made by the Crown is what appears to be somewhat akin to Judas and his 30 pieces of silver. Customs duties on 20 promotional vehicles are alleged to have been compromised by then Deputy Premier Floyd Hall, and in the process, shortchanging the Public Treasury and people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. This it appears, in exchange for $175,000 payments to Floyd Hall and Michael Misick.
According to prosecutor Mitchell:
"Norman Saunders wrote to FH on 26 January 2005. He informed FH that Civre sought to import 20 promotional vehicles at the discounted 5% rate provided for in the development agreement. Accordingly, an exemption letter was requested. FH replied to Saunders on the same day. A copy of the letter sent to the Acting Collector of Customs was sent to Saunders and Co, confirming that the concession had been agreed for a period of two years effective immediately.
"On 3 February 2005, about 8 days later, a payment of $175,000 was made from Civre’s UBS Swiss account to MM’s US HSBC account. His Honour will now have the reference to Civre and the reference to UBS – here we see that he is the source of that account. We raise for consideration: why would the Chief Minister of the TCI have an offshore bank account into which payments are being made by a developer who is seeking concessions?
"On 11 March 2005, similarly Civre made a payment of $175,000 from his UBS Swiss account into FH and LH’s joint account."
Continues the prosecutor: "So, a similar payment coming from Civre to FH and LH’s offshore account. We ask again, why would Civre be making payments to an offshore account? You recall that LH worked for him. If it was a payment without issues, why wasn’t it credited to their account in the TCI?"
During the past four years, surpluses often proudly boasted about by the government, and that should have been used for such as education, public health and infrastructure, have instead been deposited into the black hole fund – also known as sinking fund, to repay borrowed money. Borrowed, that is, to cover questionable deficits from previous PNP governments.
And does anyone want to tell us where did the $20,000 go?