Andrew Mitchell, QC, prosecutor in the corruption trial, has made it clear from the get go, that his case is about "political corruption and financial greed". It all began in 2003, the end of the eight-year reign of the People's Democratic Movement (PDM); and ended in 2009, the year that the Progressive National Party (PNP), which succeeded the PDM, was kicked out by the British government on suspicion of "systemic corruption". And in particular, as the prosecutor put it, his cases "focuses on the activities of Michael Misick who was, during this time, the first minister (or premier, as he was to become) of the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and other loyal members of his Cabinet."
As for the "activities", they comprise Misick and other ministers of his government being "the beneficiaries of payments totalling, in the case of some individuals, many millions of dollars made directly to them or the political party they represented, the Progressive National Party [PNP]." These millions of dollars were in the form of bribes and shakedowns from "potential and/or actual developers who sought to benefit from favourable development agreements and/or from Belongers (the term used to describe people with full TCI citizenship rights) who obtained Crown land from which they were to jointly profit with the politicians under the guise of the Crown Land Policy (which was intended to fairly and properly “empower” Belongers by giving them access to the one real and only resource of the Islands: the land."
Michael Misick and his PNP government, according to prosecutor Mitchell, gave "the favoured few (family, friends and fellow party supporters) a financial reward for doing nothing other than being the named purchaser of land, which was in reality being immediately sold to someone else at a significant profit." This practice widely known as "flipping", and what it in effect does, is to cheat the government and citizens of – and in this case – much money. The prosecutor, among other things, promises to show that "The monies received by the ministers were in no sense monies that could be attributed to the work of honest servants of the people whom they were elected to represent."
To do this, the Crown will focus "on nine of the land deals, or developments, that were negotiated during the Misick years. The analysis of these nine will, the Crown submits, show the way that the political establishment was prepared to abuse their responsibilities to the electorate by, in effect, treating as their own that precious resource: the land." According to the prosecutor, the evidence he will be presenting to the court, will starkly show "how each defendant was enriched beyond the wildest dream that a politician should have, by access to monies that would not be available to them simply taking account of their salaries."
The former ministers of government being tried include: Premier Michael Misick, and cabinet members, Floyd Basil Hall, McAllister Eugene Hanchell, Lillian Boyce and Jeffrey Christoval Hall. With the remaining defendants in the case being attorneys Thomas Chalmers Misick, Clayton Greene – also former PNP Speaker of the House – and Melbourne Wilson, and the wife of Floyd Hall, Lisa Hall, who, the Crown’s case will show, was allegedly an active assistant in hiding the proceeds of Floyd Hall’s corrupt income.
The Crown will among other things show that:
• In 2003 the PNP sought and obtained a loan from the Belize Bank for election expenses, in the amount of $110,000. It however turned out that $73,500 of that loan was applied to Michael Misick's overdraft, while the loan was actually repaid by the PNP.
• During 2006 the two PNP accounts at British Caribbean Bank and First Caribbean International Bank respectively were credited with $3.1million. The expenditure of some of which included:
1. January 2006 $23,400 was debited from the PNP account to pay “Karlee Artist” to “style the wardrobe of the Premier of the TCI”.
2. March 2007 the PNP Belize Bank account was used to pay in part for a boat charter for the premier's wife and nine other guests at a cost of $100,000. In 2007 $150,000 was debited from the PNP account for furnishings of the newly built home for the premier.
• Michael Misick, Floyd Hall and Jeffery Hall opened a joint account at the British Caribbean Bank for the purpose of receiving a loan of over $1.5 million to clear the overdraft of the PNP. Following the drawing down of the loan no repayments were made and by year-end 2007 the PNP loan account was in debt to the extent of $1,613,741.18.
• The PNP benefited between 2002 and 2010 from an income in excess of $13.5 million – all this money was not applied for political purposes but rather to fund individuals who were already benefiting from salaries as ministers and members of the legislature. During the period 2003 to 2009 the PDM (the other political party in TCI that had been the governing party prior to the 2003 election) received $1.69 million by way of comparison.
• With an electorate of only 7,000, the monies received by the two parties at the 2007 election was $186 per elector (PDM) and $1,148 (PNP). This compared to expenditure in Jamaica during the 2007 election, where the spend per head in US$ was about US$5.
• During the period of Michael Misick's leadership of his party, $1.9 million was paid from the party accounts for his benefit, or to third parties on his behalf.
• On 15 September 2006, $200,095 was paid to Caretti Turner, decorators who were instructed in the refurbishment of Michael Misick’s home.
• 31 August 2006 a payment of $10,095 to the Brilliamont School from PNP funds. LisaRaye McCoy who was married to Michael Misick, had a daughter at this school.
• On 28 September 2006 $70,095 was paid to Michael Misick's American Express card. Also from PNP funds.
• The Crown is submitting that "the total of something like $2.3 million was recorded as being paid out on behalf of Michael Misick from PNP accounts" during the period covered by their investigation.
• McAllister Hanchell benefited from payments in excess of $230,000 between December 2004 and October 2008.
• It is also alleged that Lillian Boyce and her husband Hayden Boyce were beneficiaries between December 2005 and January 2007 of $140,000 in payments from the PNP.
• And Jeffrey Hall received $127,000 from party funds between 2003 and 2008.
• It is alleged that Floyd Hall, through Paradigm Limited benefitted from a $375,000 bribe from Mr Padgett, of the Third Turtle Club development.
• That Jeffery Hall and his then attorney Melbourne Wilson, during the North West Point transaction, obtained $1,800,000 from the monies paid by the developers to secure the deal.
• The Crown also allege that Lisa Hall received and laundered $425,000 which she knew, or should at least have had reasonable grounds to suspect, were the proceeds of the criminal conduct of her husband Floyd Hall. Further alleging that the $425,000 represented a bribe paid by Civre to Floyd Hall in connection with the planning around the development of the Seven Stars Complex.
And so on, and so on.
One thing for sure, is if all, or any of the accusations by the Crown turn out to be judged true, the leaders of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours have every right to regret any sympathy and support they may have offered to Misick and his former government, and condemnation of the administering British government. Especially if their actions resulted from Misick's claim that he and his ministers are victims of a British government plot, designed to get them because they were seeking self determination and eventual independence for their country and people. They could claim to have been bamboozled.
And Mr. Misick would at least owe an apology to our Caribbean neighbours and friends for saying to the Commission of Inquiry that the way he did things in his country, including some of the things he was accused of during the inquiry, was the modus operandi throughout our region. I think.