By Latrishka Thomas
Suspended senior police officer Ray John and his two co-accused maintain that they did not commit the passport scam that they are accused of.
John, an assistant superintendent of police, his mother Yvonne Nickie and his then partner Shakema Charles — who was an employee of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office — are believed to have conspired with persons unknown to forge passports through the unauthorised use of Multi Layered Infilling Sheets (MLIS) belonging to the local passport office.
The offence allegedly occurred some time between the 28 October 2014 and 6 April, 2018.
Vincentian-born policeman, who was 45 years old at the time of his arrest, is also charged with two counts of larceny. He is accused of stealing 16 of the sheets valued at $1,600 and also receiving them knowing them to be stolen.
John, represented by Attorney Dane Hamilton Snr, and the two women who are represented by lawyers Hugh Marshall and Michael Archibald, appeared in the High Court yesterday for their arraignment.
The trio told High Court Judge Colin Williams that they are not guilty of the charges against them
The matter was then adjourned until July 23 at which time the court will decide on a trial date.
The alleged passport scam was uncovered early in April 2018 when the police in St Vincent and the Grenadines intercepted a man at the airport with five bio pages of Antigua and Barbuda passports, among other items, to include a large quantity of cash.
The collaborative work between the police in St Vincent and Antigua and Barbuda led to ASP John’s arrest.
On April 15 that year, the police pulled his then 63-year-old Vincentian mother from a flight that was set to depart Antigua and Barbuda, just days after lawmen had searched John’s Gunthropes home and reportedly confiscated a number of items as evidence.
At the time, Nickie was in Antigua visiting her son, and during the search, they were both told by the police not to leave the state, yet she proceeded to attempt to leave.
They were subsequently charged and granted bail, but unlike the first two co-accused in the case, Charles was denied bail and remanded to prison when she appeared before the Chief Magistrate.
She was able to get bail in the High Court some time after.
When the case was committed in 2019, around 30 exhibits were tendered into evidence for the High Court trial. They included passport patches, copies of foreign passports, cellphones, and cellphone excerpts.