by Elesha George
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is not satisfied with the judgement that acquitted former government ministers Dr Jacqui Quinn, Harold Lovell and Wilmoth Daniel of embezzlement, conversion and corruption regarding the acquisition of three Daewoo buses.
On November 23, High Court Judge Justice Colin Williams ruled that the trio had no case to answer to on the charges brought against them by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The defendants were accused of using the buses – donated to the former administration by South Korea and worth more than EC$200,000 each – for their own personal use.
After eight full days of submitting evidence and hearing arguments from both the defence and prosecution, the judge accepted a ‘no case’ application which cited that, collectively, there was simply not enough evidence to convict the three on those charges.
However, Browne said, had he had a say in the matter, he would have challenged the former UPP ministers on the grounds of “misdemeanour in public office” – a far lesser charge but one he believes would have been more likely to stick.
“Those buses came consigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ought not to have ended up registered in the names of private individuals,” he stressed.
“The nature of the charges are flawed to some extent but let us not forget that when this matter first went to the High Court and it was thrown out, it then went to the Appeals Court and the Appeals Court judges – three judges in a higher court – said they had a case to answer and sent it back down.”
“So I find it a little astonishing that a single judge in a lower court is now saying that they don’t have a case to answer,” he explained, while speaking on the weekend.
Insistent that an ethical issue does arise with the manner in which the three became in possession of the buses, he digressed that the matter of appeal remains with the DPP.
“The issue of appeal is exclusively for the DPP. All I’ll say here is, I’d be very, very concerned about any precedent of bad governance that could be enshrined in that judgement.
“I don’t know if it was by design or error but I imagine the DPP, when he studies the judgement, he will make a determination as to whether or not he will appeal,” Browne said.
Last week, the three defendants expressed vindication at the court ruling. Dr Quinn has since announced her intention to file a lawsuit against the government for damages.