Mon | Jan 17, 2022

Court date set for quizzing of PNP Five over Trafigura money

Published:Thursday | August 5, 2021 | 12:30 AM

Five functionaries of the People’s National Party (PNP), including a former prime minister, are scheduled to be questioned in the Trafigura bribery case over five days in March next year, ending a decade-long wait.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn and Knight, Junor & Samuels, the law firm representing the politicians, confirmed that the questions will be asked in open court from March 7-10 and 14.

Bert Samuels could not confirm whether all five officials - former Prime minister and ex-party president Portia Simpson Miller; former chairmen Robert Pickersgill and Phillip Paulwell; former general secretary Colin Campbell; and businessman Norton Hinds - will be ready to face interrogation, because “we haven’t taken instructions fully on that”.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is Jamaica’s designated Central Authority under the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act and, in this case, acts on behalf of Dutch investigators probing a 2006 donation to the PNP by the firm Trafigura Beheer.

Dutch firms are prohibited from making donations to foreign governments. No Jamaican law was broken.

Llewellyn said her team of prosecutors, to be led by a deputy DPP, has been prepared for the hearings.

“The office has been ready for years. It is the other side who wished to exercise all their options,” she said.

“We served, years ago, questions that are to be asked of all the particular applicants. That is our role, responsibility, and duty. As to who will be there, who is going to be doing what as far as they are concerned, only their attorneys could tell you that.”

The way was cleared for the local Supreme Court to set the date after the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final appellate court, upheld the rulings of local judges in dismissing the challenge by the PNP officials to testify in open court.

They were initially given the opportunity to give evidence in private, but did not take it up.

The nature of the matter under investigation “is one which is capable of affecting the polity of the country,” the UK-based judges said in an April ruling.

“The court was entitled to consider that the public importance of, and interest in, the investigation, together with the public profile of the witnesses, were relevant to the question whether the proceedings should take place in public,” they added, referring to the Supreme Court.

The authorities in the Netherlands requested that Simpson Miller, Pickersgill, Paulwell, Campbell, and Hinds answer questions about the $31-million donation which was made while Jamaica, under the leadership of the Simpson Miller administration, had an oil-lifting agreement with Trafigura.

In 2011, Hinds started answering questions in the Supreme Court when the case was halted.

Simpson Miller, 75, retired from politics in 2017. Pickersgill retired in 2020.

Campbell remains active in the PNP, while Paulwell is currently a member of parliament and serves in the Shadow Cabinet of Mark Golding, the party president and opposition leader.

Golding welcomed the Privy Council’s decision, noting that the events took place 15 years ago, and “the delay in completing this mutual legal assistance process has dragged the matter out for far too long”.

“The information requested by the Dutch authorities should now be provided without delay. Let the truth come out, and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.