Barbadians want blood and they will get it soon.
This promise has come from Attorney General Dale Marshall, who disclosed that the Mia Mottley administration had engaged the services of the London-based law firm Fulcrum Chambers Ltd., and that investigations into a number of state entities were well advanced.
Leading off debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill in Parliament on Tuesday, Marshall said he was aware that Barbadians were eager to see some action taken against corrupt individuals, but he said that in order to bring a case there must first be the gathering of evidence.
“I know that Barbadians want blood I suppose . . . They want to know that some people face the courts and I guarantee, some people will face the court. They have to face the court, but you don’t carry to court a man based on hearsay, you carry a man to court based on proof,” he told the Lower Chamber.
Stating that some Barbadians were insisting that they were aware of alleged corruption, Marshall expressed concern that they were not willing to give a statement to the police, and he said without evidence the investigating officers would have a “monumental task” putting together a case.
“This administration engaged the specialist services of an important and very reputable law firm in England and that firm has specialized in doing corruption and bribery cases both in England, the United States and other parts of the world,” he said.
He noted Government had asked them to accept a brief and “examine the workings of our state-owned enterprises and other aspects of our government”.
He revealed that an intensive three-month scoping study was completed, which examined all of the financial dealings of state enterprises and other departments in order to identify those areas where there is prima facie evidence of corruption so as to inform a more in-depth and intensive investigation stance to be taken by the government.
The Attorney General did not disclose the cost of the exercise, but defending the need to get outside help, he said in order to follow the paper trail of corruption a set of forensic skills was needed that were not readily available within the Royal Barbados Police Force.
He added that the Fulcrum team was trained and experienced in flushing out financial crimes and other forms of corruption.
The Fulcrum Chambers describes itself as a highly specialized legal advisory and consultancy business “comprising barristers, solicitors, investigators and other high caliber professionals”.
Marshall said the scoping study was completed “and the consultants from Fulcrum are expected to deliver their report to the Government of Barbados early February”, adding that an investigative strategy would be formulated to take a further look at any acts of corruption.
“When that report is received they will make a set of recommendations essentially as to potential areas of corrupt practice so that we can then focus an investigation on those areas,” he said, adding that no matter how daunting and how reluctant residents were to disclose evidence the investigations would continue.
He also gave the assurance that the highly-touted Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Bill would soon be introduced to complement the Integrity in Public Life Bill.
The laying of the Bill on Tuesday coincided with the Donville Inniss money laundering trial taking place in New York. Marshall made several references to that case.
“If we had had integrity in public life legislation in place governing the conduct of those ministers, that individual would have been called to account, not by United States authorities, but by a functioning Integrity Commission in our own homeland and he would have had to explain how he got that extra $60,000 or $70,000,” said Marshall.
“He would have been declaring an additional amount of money and he would have been forced to explain to his own kind where he got it from, but now he is obligated to explain it to a judge in New York who stands in judgment over him,” he said.
Under the Integrity in Public Life Bill, individuals can incur a range of fines – as little as $5,000 or two months in prison or both; or as much as $20,000 or two years in prison, or both.
Those subjected to this legislation include members of Cabinet including members of the House of Assembly and the Senate; Permanent Secretaries, heads of departments in the public service and holders of public office of the same grade as that of heads of departments; chairpersons of some 58 state-owned enterprises; chief executive officers, general managers and other executive heads of state enterprises; magistrates; director of public prosecutions; auditor general; and members and senior officers of the commission.
Pleading with individuals to come forward with information, Marshall said it was not too late to do so, adding that “Barbados needs to have that catharsis because we have been under the boot of corruption for ten years and event though we have gotten out from under the boot, we do need now to make sure that there is some system of penalties that is exacted against those individuals who engaged in that kind of wicked activity.”
It is expected that provisions would be made in this year’s Estimates for the establishment of the Integrity Commission.
Pointing out that the RBPF recently received an additional six officers for its Financial Crimes Unit recently, Marshall said he would be seeking more funds in this year’s Estimates to further beef up the force’s investigative powers and for the establishment of the planned Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Unit.
During the development of the Integrity in Public Life Bill about 11 meetings were held and 27 people and entities including political parties and special interest groups, made submissions before the Select Committee. [email protected]