The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) has challenged those calling for a probe into allegations of illegal wiretapping, dating back to 2000, to bring the proof.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler yesterday called for an investigation after cautioning that unnamed persons who he said had illegally recorded phone calls and Internet transmissions of public officials and private individuals during the tenure of the last Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government, were waiting “in the wings” for the call of elections to continue their “dastardly” acts.
Speaking in Parliament on the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2017 introduced by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Sinckler sought to make it clear that he was not accusing the former Owen Arthur-led regime of authorizing or knowing about the wiretapping because, he said, even Arthur’s phone was bugged.
However, he said “that sometime between 2000 and 2009 personal telephones in Barbados and Internet communications . . . were intercepted under the last Government”, adding that there was an affidavit supporting his claim. The DLP assumed office in January, 2008, after defeating the Barbados Labour Party in the general election that year.
“I always felt my phone was tapped when I was talking to the then Leader of the Opposition and President of the Democratic Labour Party [David Thompson],” he said, adding that the phones and computer communications of many others were intercepted.
“When these matters are dispensed, a full and complete investigation ought to be done to find out who it is that was empowering certain people to tap phones in Barbados,” he added.
However, Deputy Commissioner of Police Oral Williams told Barbados TODAY this afternoon the police would investigate if they receive evidence, or if a complaint were lodged.
“The police cannot carry out an investigation unless they receive a complaint. If someone has information their phone was being tapped or evidence of phone tapping they should come to the Commissioner [of Police],” the senior cop said, adding that no report or information had “passed” his desk, and if this were the case he would have known.
After Sinckler made the allegation, Arthur sought to make it clear that neither he nor his Cabinet had sanctioned any illegal wiretapping of telephones between 2000 and 2009.
“This is a serious matter, but I can state categorically that no Cabinet I presided over in my 14 years in office sanctioned the tapping of any person’s telephones,” Arthur told Parliament.
He said that as far as he was aware, from time to time the RBPF would undertake matters of public security, and he urged his parliamentary colleagues to examine the Police Act to see who would have been empowered to give police authority to carry out any activity.
“Under Section 8 of the Police Act the Commissioner of Police is only answerable to the Governor General, not to any political leader. So any matter of this nature is between the Police Commissioner and the Governor General in office at the time. It is a policing matter, not a parliamentary one,” Arthur said.
“Anyone who claims that phones were tapped for matters other than national security must bring proof. Bring the evidence because such statements have implications for the entire Cabinet,” he added.
The attention now turns to former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin, who was accused by the Police Service of engaging in criminal activity by ordering the taps.
In a document in which it presented its findings of a probe into the allegation, the PSC said back in 2013 that probably for the first time Barbados had found itself in a “dangerous and untenable” position in relation to policing activity.
The body had charged that there was “irrefutable evidence” that the Force had been bugging the phones of several Barbadian citizens who were not known or suspected to be involved in any criminal activity. This action, it said, had made law-abiding citizens afraid to use their telephones.
The PSC indicated at the time that this activity had compromised the integrity of communications of Government officials and was a threat to Barbados’ democratic way of life.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of a 16-page letter which the PSC had written to then Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, outlining its reasons for recommending that Dottin be retired in the public’s interest.
The PSC explained in the document that the conduct of the former top cop amounted to a criminal offence, but that it became impossible to prosecute him given the fact that, as Commissioner of Police at the time, he was the person responsible for commencing criminal proceedings.
As part of its investigation, the PSC said, it interviewed senior members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, including then Deputy Commissioner Bertie Hinds, who stated that the matter of phone tapping was “cause for great concern and distress throughout the Force and among officers’ families”.