Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and former minister of trade and investment, MP Asot Michael are being accused of collaborating the demise of suspended top cop, Wendel Robinson. But, last night, Benjamin dismissed this claim, and others, as “completely ludicrous.”
Before delving further into Benjamin’s response, it should be noted that Robinson’s allegation was made in sworn affidavits before the High Court, in which he is asking the judge to grant judicial review of his April 5 suspension amid allegations he sexually harassed several of his male subordinates and victimised one of them who turned down his advances.
Robinson, who submitted a 102-page file detailing his complaint and providing documentation to support some of his allegations, alleged that senior and junior police officers were part of the elaborate scheme to bring him down. He has named at least one witness who claims he was offered $15,000 to make a false statement about him, Robinson.
According to Robinson, the plot came about as a result of his refusal to allow the two top government officials to interfere with his work, make demands and dictate to him, among other reasons.
He highlighted several instances and one that sticks out, states, “Another factor which has caused strain in my relationship with the Attorney General is his own close relationship with Asot Michael who was fired from Cabinet in 2017 following his detention in the United Kingdom on arrival there.”
“Mr. Michael, along with Mr. Peter Verdie [Virdee], did try to reach me about certain issues and I avoided any communication with them. The Attorney General, too, did call me several times to find out if there was any update from Interpol on the matter with Asot Michael following his arrest in 2017. There are aspects of the situation with Mr. Michael and Mr. Verdie [Virdee] which I would wish to place in evidence at the appropriate time. However, since that evidence may have national security implications and is of a sensitive nature, I would wish that evidence to be taken on another occasion and in camera, if considered necessary by the Court.”
MP Michael who was sacked from the post of tourism and energy minister last year by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, was back in Cabinet as investment and trade minister this year, but resigned last month after a scandal broke that he tried to solicit bribes and other kickbacks from Virdee in exchange for contracts in Antigua and St. Kitts.
While Robinson did not go into detail about the probe, he added, “I received reliable intelligence, beginning in May, 2017, from several sources that the Attorney General and another politician, specifically, Asot Michael, were colluding with two senior officers, as well as junior officers, to fabricate some scandal against me. I cannot, for security reasons, reveal the nature or names of my sources. However, I consider these sources eminently reliable.”
And he went on to state that the subsequent allegations of sexual harassment “are pure fabrications and I have reason to believe that these allegations are politically motivated. The interference by the Attorney General in the disciplinary process and/or complaints process buttresses that view.”
Robinson said that since assuming the position of Commissioner of Police, his relationship with the Attorney General has grown increasingly tense on an incremental basis and over time the Attorney General became hostile towards him.
He his “well-placed friends” often had to defend him before the prime minister, Gaston Browne, against complaints made by the attorney general after he, Robinson, it is alleged, repeatedly refused to hand over keys to Benjamin for a property where a double homicide and drug bust had taken place. At the time, two police officers were accused of the crimes and the matter was pending in court.
The top cop alleged that the attorney general said he wanted the keys to hand over to the new lawyers, following his appointment to Cabinet in 2014.
Robinson said he found it “highly suspicious.”
He added, “Yet another incident colouring my relationship with the Attorney General involved the
refusal of a liquor license to a proprietor in St. John’s called Rey John. The old Liquor License Act prohibited the sale of alcohol in certain parts of Town and a nearby business owner had complained about the noise from Mr. John’s business which was a strip club.”
Robinson, who pointed out that the “Commissioner of Police has the authority to grant a temporary and occasional license”, said the attorney general “unsuccessfully interceded” on behalf of the proprietor and then parliament subsequently changed the law with respect to the granting of liquor licences.
“I then granted Mr. John an occasional license but revoked it when a gunshot was fired in his business place. That business now has a Liquor License granted by the Court.”
He alleged that the AG confronted him more than once, asking why he reported to the prime minister directly on occasion, suggesting that Robinson wanted the ministry to be shifted under the prime minister’s purview.
“Though there was no basis for his suspicion, the Attorney General saw these meetings as undermining him as Minister. The Attorney General has even accused me from time to time for reporting directly to the Prime Minister before briefing him, but this assertion is not true. There are matters of security concerns that in my view both my minister and the Prime Minister should know. I communicated with the PM via WhatsApp from time to time and the Prime Minister respond virtually all the time and in a readily manner,” Robinson stated.
The top cop said a former police officer, who is no friend of his, has come forward to report that there were multiple instances in which senior officers, as well as retired officers including former Inspector Trevor Young, pressured him in an attempt to get him “to make false statements against me.”
And, he notes that two of the same officers who are now making “false” statements about him, were also part of the conversation and plot trying to get more statements against him as commissioner.
He said the witness’s statement about being offered $15,000 to lie “corroborates my own view that these statements [sexual harassment complaints] have been gathered as part of a concerted effort to discredit me and effect my removal as Commissioner of Police.”
In a brief exclusive interview with OBSERVER media last night, Benjamin responded saying, “I am amazed. That is completely ludicrous, nonsensical and absolutely totally untrue.”
Benjamin said “since the matter is sub judice” he would say no more, except in writing his own affidavit in response to Robinson’s charges.
He said when the case comes up for hearing, “all this ludicrous, misguided, unfounded, wicked statements will be dealt with as they ought to. There is nothing further from the truth.” Efforts to reach MP Michael were unsuccessful.