Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Petrojam prosecutions could be imminent - Creary error doesn’t invalidate Integrity Commission report, says Panton

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2020 | 12:27 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Craig Beresford (right), director of information and complaints at the Integrity Commission, speaks with Greg Christie (left), executive director, and retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman, at the swearing-in of Beresford at the corruption watchdog’s
Craig Beresford (right), director of information and complaints at the Integrity Commission, speaks with Greg Christie (left), executive director, and retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman, at the swearing-in of Beresford at the corruption watchdog’s Oxford Road offices in New Kingston on Tuesday. Beresford formerly worked alongside Christie at the now-defunct Office of the Contractor General as a senior director.

Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Seymour Panton, says that prosecutions are likely to follow from the two Petrojam reports that were tabled at the end of June in Parliament.

Asked to comment on former energy minister Andrew Wheatley’s move to seek judicial review of the Integrity Commission’s reports, Panton, a former president of the Court of Appeal, said he has “great confidence in the judiciary of Jamaica”.

According to the straight-talking Integrity Commission chairman, the judiciary knows how to “recognise whether there is sense or nonsense in a proceeding”.

“There are likely to be prosecutions to follow from the report, so people should bear that in mind,” Panton asserted.

Wheatley has sought the court’s permission to review the Integrity Commission’s recommendation that he be prosecuted for perjury.

He is also challenging a claim by the anti-corruption oversight body that he was “dishonest” and “less than truthful” in his representations concerning Sophia Deer.

Deer is the principal of Homestead Primary School, which is located in the St Catherine South Central constituency for which Wheatley is the member of parliament. She also sat on several boards within the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology when Wheatley was minister.

According to the report, Wheatley said Deer was his technical assistant, but the investigator said the former minister did not disclose that she is also the mother of his nephew.

WANTS REDRESS VIA COURT

Wheatley has denied the claim and now wants the court to quash the adverse conclusions, which they claim “were not grounded in fact nor law”.

He claims that his reputation has been brought into disrepute and that there are no alternative forms of redress as the Integrity Commission, a parliamentary body, is immune to defamation suits.

Meanwhile, Panton said that the commission tendered an apology to Richard Creary, mayor of Port Maria, for an error that was made in the Petrojam report.

“There was an error made in that it was written that the mayor was present at an interview. He was not, and so we had no problem in apologising at the first available opportunity,” said Panton.

But Creary, in an interview with The Gleaner on Tuesday, said that the damage to his reputation has already been done on account of a basic error.

“While I accept the apology, I am still of the view that this mistake should have never taken place, and to make it seem like I was present in order to enable some corrupt act, I find that disturbing,” Creary said.

However, Panton dismissed suggestions that the commission should withdraw the entire report.

“One error was made and that error has been corrected. There is no reason to withdraw the report,” he told The Gleaner.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com