Passport office worker remanded, gets committal date

Shakema Charles of St. Johnston’s Village

Unlike her two co-accused in a passport fraud case, Shakema Charles was, on Wednesday, denied bail and remanded to prison when she appeared before Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh charged with six offences.

The court’s decision was influenced by the police’s request for an arrest warrant to be issued for the Passport Office worker on December 29, 2018 after she failed to turn herself in to them up to nine days after a wanted bulletin was issued for her on December 20.

The 43-year-old accused still has the option to apply for bail in the High Court.

Charles’s return date for committal proceedings is January 31, the same date when her partner, suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police Ray John and his mother Yvonne Nickie are to return for their committal on the joint charges.

John and Nickie were charged since last April but it was only this week Charles was added as an accused on the five charges of conspiracy to forge five bio pages of Antigua and Barbuda passports.

Charles, who surrendered to police on Monday after seeking legal advice following the issuance of a wanted bulletin and subsequent arrest warrant by police last month, also joins John as an accused on a larceny charge.

It is alleged that they stole scores of Multi Layered Infilling System (MLIS) passport patches valued $21,700.00, the property of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office. John is accused of receiving the same, knowing them to be stolen.

The offences allegedly occurred between October 1, 2014 and April 6, 2018 in Antigua and Barbuda.

The alleged passport scam was uncovered in early April 2018 when the police in St. Vincent 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 from St. Vincent and Antigua led to ASP John’s arrest.

On April 15, the police pulled his then 63-year-old mother from a flight that was set to depart Antigua, just days after lawmen had searched John’s Gunthropes home and confiscated a number of items as evidence.

At the time, the woman was in Antigua visiting her son, and during the search, they were both told not to leave the state – but she proceeded with her plans to do so.

They were subsequently charged and granted bail.