A day after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler levelled phone tapping allegations against unnamed persons during the period in office of the Owen Arthur-led Barbados Labour Party administration, details emerged today of the case made against then Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin, the person said to have been behind the illegal wiretapping between 2000 and 2009.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday on the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2017 introduced by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Sinckler did not name any suspect, but said there was illegal tapping of telephones of persons during the term of the last BLP Government.
He sought to make it clear that he was not accusing the former Arthur-led regime of authorizing or knowing about the wiretapping, saying even Arthur’s phone was bugged.
However, the minister reported “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 fear that the people who were sitting behind such a clandestine and wicked and dastardly attempt to bastardize the rights of Barbadians in Barbados, criminal attempts, are waiting in the wings to gather unto themselves the power to continue with their nefarious activities when the election is called,” Sinckler said.
Dottin had long been accused of masterminding the wiretapping, after a suspended policeman had in 2010 alleged wiretapping of phones of senior officials.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) subsequently conducted an investigation and wrote then Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave accusing Dottin of conducting “unlawful” wiretapping of innocent citizens, and recommending his retirement in the public’s interest.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of the damning 16-page document dated June 10, 2013 in which the PSC explained 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 (RBPF), 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”.
“He [Hinds] stated that his family was among those suffering in this way. Mr Hinds also said that he was of the firm belief that tapping was happening and would continue. Mr Hinds stated that he was informed that both his residential telephone and his cellular phone may be tapped. He was also informed that telephone conversations between him and another senior officer were secretly recorded,” the PSC said in the letter.
The correspondence also revealed that then Acting Assistant Commissioner Morgan Greaves said he had been privately informed that both his private and office telephones had been tapped, and he was told of recordings of his conversations with Hinds.
“The Commission had audiences with a number of persons who gave first-hand accounts of the Commissioner’s phone tapping activities and other matters of concern. These persons provided direct evidence of events,” the document said.
For example, the PSC told Sir Elliott of a meeting with Assistant Superintendent Lila Boyce on July 22, 2011, at which she gave an account of a meeting with Dottin and Inspector Anderson Bowen (now deceased), during which the former top cop “manipulated his laptop computer and played a recording of a telephone conversation between Inspector Bowen and another person”.
According to the PSC she said she heard nothing in that conversation that implicated Bowen in any unlawful activity.
The then Head of State was also told that two other officers provided compelling personal accounts.
“Sergeant Paul Lynch informed the Commission that he had been attached to the Special Branch of the Force and was aware of telephone tapping. He said that [then] Commissioner Dottin gave instructions to use the facilities to tap the telephones of five senior officers, namely Bertie Hinds, L Brome, Glen Bradshaw, Graham Archer and Joy McConney.”
The Commission noted that Bradshaw was the driver of the current Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, while McConney was the driver of then Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
“It seems that these tappings were politically motivated. Sergeant Lynch also stated that there was a secret section of these operations called ‘Political’. Constable Erwin Bradshaw, a former intelligence officer, corroborated the information provided by Sergeant Lynch. He told the Commission that intelligence gathering equipment which was donated to the Force to intercept phone calls and Internet traffic associated with the illegal activity was instead used by the Commissioner to listen into calls by certain public officials, including senior members of the Police Force, magistrates and members of the Police Service Commission,” the letter revealed.
Also emerging from the document was that one of the police officers deployed by Dottin to tap telephones provided the Commission with a compact disc of two recorded conversations which the PSC had transcribed.
It disclosed that one conversation was between Bertie Hinds and Morgan Greaves and the second between Prime Minister Stuart’s security officer and Hinds.
Under a subheading entitled ‘Criminal Offences’, the letter to the then Governor General noted that at least three serving members of the Force had provided information to the Commission that they were deployed by Dottin to tap the telephones of a number of citizens, or were otherwise aware of evidence of this activity.
“According to the information provided to the Commission, these eavesdropping decisions were not necessarily informed by suspicion of criminal activity . . . as such, this conduct would amount to a criminal offence,” the PSC said, warning that it carried a penalty of $250,000 or three years in jail.
Repeated efforts to reach Dottin were unsuccessful up until the time of publication.