Attorney Ralph Thorne QC has said he will make an application to the court for a mistrial in the case of the former premier of Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael Misick, following the publication of statements from the prosecution as well as a statement from Sandals Resorts International over the weekend.
According to Sandals Resort International, prosecutor Andrew Mitchell QC said in his opening statement on Tuesday, that payments were made to Misick by one or more Sandals-related companies.
Sandals has admitted that the payments were in fact made.
The company said the matter was discovered during an investigation by the US Department of Justice, and the company retained retired Federal judge, and partner in the Florida law firm Cole, Scott & Kissane Tom Scott to assist with the probe. A Washington DC forensic accounting firm was also engaged to conduct an in-depth accounting investigation into the matter.
“The results of the investigation and the forensic audit revealed that some US$1,650,000 had been paid to Prestigious Properties Limited, a real estate company in which Michael Misick, Phillip Misick and Washington Misick were the shareholders, and Chalmers Misick & Co., a firm of lawyers in the TCI. All those payments were made without the knowledge or consent of the principals of Sandals,” the statement said.
According to Sandals, the unauthorised payments were made by a senior executive and then Treasurer of Sandals who was subsequently dismissed from the company. Sandals also filed a lawsuit against him in the Bahamas to recover the funds.
“The damage done to the company by his actions was substantial. Not only had he betrayed the trust which the chairman and other directors had reposed in him but based on the level of his authority, the company was legally bound by his actions and this culminated in the company having to absorb a fine of US $12m imposed by the Turks & Caicos authorities.”
The international hotel chain maintains that the illicit payments might not have come to light were it not for the Auld inquiry which followed Misick’s removal from office, and the investigations by the Department of Justice.
However in response to Sandals Thorne said he believes the statement “has been a consequence of the practice of the prosecution of issuing daily releases of its unproved opening statement through a website created by the prosecution itself”, a practice which he said he has expressed to the court was “improper and undue”.
He noted that it is clear that the publication of the prosecution’s opening statement to the Judge and its style, “have excited feelings of hostility and antipathy” towards his client.
“…On Thursday January 28, 2016 … Mr Misick was accosted with threats by an individual while he was leaving the court. Together with the prosecutor, we brought this incident to the attention of the Judge on the following morning.
“In addition, we now have a large corporate entity feeling obliged to issue a statement in relation to issues that pertain to contested evidence in the case,” Thorne stated, adding that it is a matter for the Judge if (he) will consider at the next sitting whether the issuance of this statement is contemptuous of the court and whether it is calculated to influence the proceedings.
Thorne said he is concerned that the statement from Sandals is “so highly prejudicial to his rights and to his presumption of innocence, that it defeats this opportunity for a fair trial”.
“It is my view that the prosecution’s daily publication of its highly charged opening statement and this statement have had the cumulative effect of scandalising my client, portraying him contemptuously and ultimately depriving him of the right to a fair trial that is guaranteed by the Constitution and by the Human Rights conventions.
“I acknowledge that a proper balance between fair trial and press freedom must be maintained and I offer no condemnation of the media that seek to inform the public.
“However, parties to a trial must not exploit the media to seek resolution or ventilate on matters that are properly only within the purview of the court at this time,” Thorne said.
According to him, the statements from the prosecution and Sandals are “capable of undermining the independence of the judiciary and the dignity and the process of trial”, and warned that the process should not be allowed to degenerate into the nature and spectacle of an inquisition.