Judge rules that there is a Case to Answer on all counts against all defendants in Turks & Caicos corruption trial

Yesterday, Justice Paul Harrison ruled that there is a Case to Answer in the ongoing TCI trial against the former Premier and his ex-Cabinet Ministers. The trial has been running since December 2015 and is now set to continue after the summer vacation and then likely into its 5th year. Andrew Mitchell QC continues to prosecute the case for the Special Investigations and Prosecution Team.

Below is yesterday’s report from the Turks and Caicos Weekly News in advance of the ruling:

“Judge to rule on Monday -Judge set to give ruling whether or not case involving former Government ministers should be thrown out

July 29, 2019

By Gemma Handy

ALL eyes will be on the Supreme Court on Monday (July 29) for a hearing marking a pivotal juncture in the ongoing corruption trial of several former Government ministers.

The lengthy proceedings, now in the fourth year, will either enter a new phase or be thrown out entirely, depending on Justice Paul Harrison’s ruling.

The latter is what defendants and their lawyers are hoping for.

Attorneys for the nine corruption-accused – which include erstwhile premier Michael Misick and four of his ex-Cabinet ministers – spent weeks earlier this year arguing that the prosecution had failed to show sufficient evidence of their clients’ alleged misdeeds.

Judge Harrison will give his decision as to whether or not there is a case for them to answer.

If he rules lead prosecutor Andrew Mitchell QC and team have not adequately proven the charges outlined, the defendants will be acquitted and the case dismissed.

If Harrison deems adequate evidence has indeed been presented, the trials will move into the defence phase with lawyers for the accused presenting their side.

The trials officially opened in December 2015 and were expected to last just six months.

TCI’s taxpayers have controversially picked up the bill for most of the proceedings. The most recent estimate of costs, given by Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson at this month’s swearing-in ceremony of new Governor Nigel Dakin, was almost $100 million.

More than $10 million was budgeted for the current financial year. And if the trials move ahead, they are once again likely to be protracted.

Mitchell spent two and a half years laying out the Crown’s case before wrapping up in September.

Defence attorneys previously lamented the sheer volume of evidence presented for them to sift through. It includes more than 200,000 pages of documents and 2,000-plus witness statements.

In January, the lawyers demanded the trials be dismissed because the Crown had failed to make them "manageable”. Judge Harrison disagreed, adding that the long delays experienced had been unavoidable.

Misick himself is fending off a litany of charges including conspiracy to receive bribes, conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering.

Prosecutors also claim endemic corruption saw public officials line their own pockets with under-the-table dealings, many of them pertaining to the sale of Crown land.

Swathes of land desired by foreign developers are said to have been sold to locals, who benefitted from special discounted rates, before being flipped and sold to investors at market price with defendants pocketing the difference.

Other charges range from avoidance of customs duties to handing out ‘Belonger status’ citizenships to entitle foreigners to purchase Crown land.

Defence attorneys claim, among other things, the Crown has not sufficiently shown there to be an "overarching conspiracy” between seven of the defendants, as alleged.

The Crown asserts various bribes were received between 2003 and 2009 in relation to eight separate developments when the political defendants were in office.

The conspiracy is said to have taken place between four members of the then Cabinet, namely Misick and his ministers Floyd Hall, McAllister Hanchell and Jeffrey Hall.

Also apparently involved were two attorneys, Chalmers Misick and Clayton Greene, and Hall’s wife Lisa.

Other allegations centre on the way political donations were spent, including a charge of conspiracy to defraud the then ruling PNP party and its members of donations.

Misick’s party received $13.5 million over a seven-year period for "electoral purposes” – eight times more than the main Opposition.

The Crown claims Misick spent much of the money on himself, including $23,000 given to his wardrobe stylist; $110,000 for a boat charter for Misick’s then wife, Hollywood actress LisaRaye McCoy, and nine of her friends; and a further $150,000 apparently debited for furnishings in the newly-built Misick mansion.

Defence attorneys reminded Harrison of testimonies from witnesses, including developers, who said it was commonly accepted that sums donated were spent at candidates’ discretion.

The other two defendants on trial are former Health Minister Lillian Boyce and attorney Melbourne Wilson.”