Sat | Aug 15, 2020

family affair - Court hears that Reid instructed Pinnock to hire wife at CMU as charges against five are outlined

Published:Saturday | October 12, 2019 | 12:13 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Booted Education Minister Ruel Reid and CMU President Fritz Pinnock outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court yesterday as they attended their bail hearing.
A doctor who was attending to Ruel Reid and Fritz Pinnock before their bail hearing walks outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, yesterday.
Attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman, who is representing Professor Fritz Pinnock, addresses the media outside the court yesterday.
Attorney-at-law Carolyn Chuck, who is representing Ruel Reid, makes her way to the bail hearing at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court yesterday..

Discarded Education Minister Ruel Reid is alleged to have sent WhatsApp messages to Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) President Professor Fritz Pinnock instructing him, among other things, to hire his wife, Sharen Reid.

Reid’s wife, 49, is employed at the CMU as manager of legal affairs.

This was one of many allegations read out against the three, along with Reid’s daughter, Sharelle, and Brown’s Town Division Councillor Kim Brown-Lawrence, when they made their first appearance in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court yesterday.

The five were arrested during a series of coordinated pre-dawn operations at their homes in St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Ann on Wednesday, resulting from a corruption probe into the education ministry and the CMU.

The court was yesterday told that at least $56 million is believed to have been misappropriated from the entities.

The Reids, Pinnock, and Brown-Lawrence were subsequently slapped with fraud-related charges.

The investigation, which the court was told began in October 2018, involves the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), the Financial Investigations Division (FID), and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (CTOC).

Among the other allegations is that Pinnock, 55, and Ruel Reid, 53, conspired to have CMU pay individuals connected to the former education minister for personal services by funnelling money through the Career Advancement Programme-Youth Empowerment Solution (CAP-YES).

Further, the prosecution alleges that the men conspired to award contracts to individuals for them to provide meals to unattached youth, but the services were never provided to the east Kingston-based institution.

It was said that these monies were eventually paid over to Reid.

Brown-Lawrence, 40, who is charged with conspiracy to defraud and possession of criminal property, is alleged to have benefited from one of those contracts.

The court was also told that Reid had his helper paid by the Ministry of Education, but she was unaware of the arrangement.

It was alleged that an account was created in which the money was deposited and accessed using an ATM card, which the daughter, 24-year-old Sharelle, allegedly took from the helper and gave to her mother.

The wife is accused of withdrawing at least $1 million from the account.

Reid, his wife, his daughter, Pinnock, and Brown-Lawrence were granted bail in the sum of $3 million, $1 million, $500,000, $2 million, and $1 million, respectively.

Before bail was granted, attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman, who is representing Pinnock, criticised the way in which law-enforcement personnel arrested his client, calling it “a prearranged, malicious operation instigated by persons who have an agenda”.

Wildman also charged that the search warrant at his client’s Hellshire, St Catherine, residence was defective and that when his client was arrested, he was not told in clear terms why this action was taken.

The matter is set for mention on January 23, 2020.