By Latrishka Thomas
Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh has ruled that there is in fact a prima facie case to answer in relation to the high profile matter of alleged passport scammer, suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police Ray John and two co-accused, namely his mother Yvonne Nickie and partner Shakema Charles.
The matter has therefore been committed to the January criminal assizes.
Yesterday, Chief Magistrate Walsh considered the submission made some time ago by a member of the defense team where it was said that there are two limbs that justify why the matter should not have been committed.
He said that in order to establish conspiracy, there must be an expressed or implied arrangement and it must have been with intent to defraud a particular individual.
Noting this, the Chief Magistrate said that the evidence led her to believe that there was an arrangement.
She also said that the charge does not have to specify who was being defrauded.
Furthermore, Chief Magistrate Walsh referenced the fact that the defense wanted the charge of larceny to be dealt with at the level of the Magistrate’s Court but, according to her, the nature and seriousness of the matter requires that all of the charges be dealt with in the High Court.
Around 30 exhibits were therefore tendered into evidence for the High Court trial. They included passport patches, copies of foreign passports, cellphones, cellphone excerpts, etc.
The suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police and his mother had been in and out of the St John’s Magistrates’ Court for over a year on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and larceny.
The scam allegedly occurred between October 1st 2014 and April 6th 2018 and was uncovered when the police in St Vincent and The Grenadines intercepted a man at the airport with five bio pages of Antigua and Barbuda passports among other items, including a large quantity of cash.
It was the collaborative work between the Vincentian and Antiguan police officers that led to John’s arrest.
Charles, who was an employee of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office and for whom the police had issued a wanted bulletin, was slapped with five charges of conspiracy to forge five bio pages of the Antigua and Barbuda passports in January 2019 when she turned herself in to the police.
It was alleged that John and his partner stole scores of Multi-Layered Infilling System passport patches, valued at $21,700 – the property of the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office.
John was further accused of receiving the passport patches, knowing them to be stolen.
However, on Wednesday the prosecution dropped the charge of larceny against Charles.