The ALP sticks by MP accused of passport fraud

Attorney General Steadroy "Cutie" Benjamin

The opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) is claiming that the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) has misrepresented a recent Privy Council ruling involving one of its representatives.

The London-based court ruled Wednesday that Antigua Labour Party MP Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin was wrong to believe the DPP had the authority to instruct the police to drop charges against him. The court also ruled that the fraud charges brought against him should stand.

Following the ruling, the UPP held a press conference, hosted by Chairman Leon Chaku Symister and political hopeful Senator Joanne Massiah, calling for Benjamin to step down as an election candidate.

Benjamin is the sitting MP for St John’s City South and a candidate for the 2014 general elections.

Antigua Labour Party Chairman Paul “Chet” Greene charged members of the UPP with playing politics and giving the impression that Benjamin was found guilty of some offense.ALP Chairman Paul “Chet” Greene

ALP Chairman Paul “Chet” Greene

“What was tried at the Privy Council was a constitutional motion to see whether the DPP has the authority to direct or instruct the police. The Privy Council ruled that the DPP cannot direct, but he can certainly request,” Greene said.

“What this does is set the stage for a case to now go before the court. One gets the impression from listening to Chaku and Joanne that Cutie Benjamin was found guilty by the Privy Council. No such thing happened.”

UPP Chairman Symister yesterday said that, while Benjamin is innocent until proven guilty, no one seeking public office should have the cloud of prosecution hanging over him.

But Greene says no one should be fired just on the appearance of wrongdoing.

“That standard should not apply in any case. Persons must be given a fair crack of the whip where justice is concerned,” Greene said.

In a matter dating back some seven years, Benjamin is alleged to have, on two separate occasions, signed passport applications for individuals purporting to be someone else.

Two persons have served jailed time in connection with the case.

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