Political analyst deems another loss in court challenging for UPP

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Political analyst Arvel Grant has said government’s continued failure to prove claims of massive corruption by certain members of the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP), is bad news for the ruling administration.

The latest defeat came a week ago when Justice Jennifer Remy dismissed the attorney general’s claim that former prime minister Lester Bird, Robin Yearwood and Hugh Marshall Sr committed the act of misfeasance by facilitating a sale of Crown land allegedly “tainted with illegality.”

Grant, who was circumspect in his remarks, told Big Issues, “When you come to cases like these where the government failed in court to persuade the presiding judge that something is wrong, it is not exciting for the government of the day … it is not the happiest area of activity in an election year and it certainly looks challenging for the Spencer administration.”

He stressed that what makes it worse for government, is that the ruling party used those same allegations of corruption, among others, as a platform to rally voters to oust the ALP regime and to bring their leaders – the alleged offenders – to justice.

“It is easier to establish those things in a public inquiry than in a court where the rules of evidence and rules of engagement are quite different and more rigorous. But, clearly the court in Antigua & Barbuda has spoken. Probably it will go to the regional court or perhaps end up at the Privy Council before it is finally settled and vindicated,” he said.

The political analyst said the attorney general’s office may never be able to prove any act of misfeasance in public office because, it appears, his office is not equipped to execute the level of work required in such matters.

Grant noted the ALP officials have good lawyers at their disposal and his comments should not be seen as trying to take away from the fact the opposition members have won and have been vindicated.

The attorney general is yet to make a statement as to whether the case would be appealed, but, according to the defendant’s attorney Hugh Marshall Jr, this could be because a copy of the full judgment was only made available late last week.

Yesterday, one of the ALP defendants attorneys, Hugh Marshall Jr told the Big Issues, “The case was a waste of time as it clearly lacked the basis in law and it is not because of what (Arvel) Grant said, that the persons who had to give evidence were in themselves defendants. There was no evidence of anything being tainted with illegality.”

On the note of the attorney general initiating a case for misfeasance in public office Marshall said it ought not to have been, though it is not barred in law.

The attorney, who has defeated government in three cases the attorney general brought against ALP members, said it is time government cease its campaign against opposition members.

“These cases have clearly cost them $200,000 upwards plus additional costs ordered which would take it up a further 200,000 plus, and clearly there’s no basis,” he stressed.

Some time after the UPP took office in 2004 Attorney General Justin Simon sued the three politicians and Southern Developers Ltd – the company they directed.

They were accused of taking advantage of their positions in Cabinet to execute the purchase of 25 acres of land at Cades Bay in 1985 at $10,000 per acre.

It was argued Southern Developers immediately mortgaged the land for $1,000,000 at the now defunct Swiss American Bank. An evaluation was done of the property and it was reportedly determined it was valued $10.8 million.

Simon QC subsequently argued the land was grossly undervalued. He failed to prove the claim of misfeasance; that the sale was tainted with illegality and his bid to get the court to order the land returned to the Crown.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)