UPP bus conversion case to head to High Court

Former Finance Minister Harold Lovell (right) and former UPP cabinet minister Wilmoth Daniel speaking after their committal hearing yesterday morning (Photo by Latrishka Thomas)
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By Latrishka Thomas

The high profile bus conversion case centering on three former UPP Cabinet ministers has been committed to the High Court.

Former Finance Minister Harold Lovell and party colleagues Jacqui Quinn and Wilmoth Daniel are accused of converting three Daewoo buses – worth more than $200,000 each and a gift from the Korean government – for personal use.

Yesterday, Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh added the case to the list of matters to be heard during the September assizes in the High Court.

But before she did so, defence lawyer Leon Symister attempted to have one of the charges dismissed, saying that a new charge cannot be added after the matter had already been appealed with only two charges.

The trio is facing two fraud charges – including fraudulent conversion – and corruption. But Symister, who is representing Quinn, argued that the same charges that were put before the three when the case was first brought before the court in 2016, are the same that should be brought against them now.

According to Symister, one of the charges was added in 2019 after the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the decision made in 2017 to dismiss the case.

Police prosecutor, Dane Bontiff, however, moved to have the matter committed, saying “this is a new proceeding”.

The magistrate shared similar sentiments saying that such an application should have been made last week when submissions were being made.

She therefore committed the matter, noting that she had already declared last week that there was a prima facie case to answer in the High Court.

The three ex-ministers are said to have registered the buses in their own names at the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board while they were in public office.

All three deny the charges against them.

Lovell is being represented by Sylvester Carrot, while Quinn’s lawyer is Leon Symister, and Daniel is represented by Ralph Francis.

Symister told Observer, “We are confident that this case is a political witch hunt and we are confident that all three defendants will be vindicated.”

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