No crime over Turtle Farm

| 26/08/2008

(CNS): After more than a year long investigation, the Financial Crimes Unit (FCU) of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has said that there is no evidence of a criminal offence surrounding the financial arrangements for the redevelopment of the Turtle Farm. Superintendent Mike Needham told the press that after a thorough investigation by his team there was nothing to substantiate a crime.

Speaking at a special press briefing at RCIPS headquarters this morning (Tuesday 26 August) David George, the Acting Police Commissioner, explained that the investigation into the financing of the Boatswain Beach Tourist Attraction and the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm would not lead to any further action by the police.

“After a full and protracted investigation, which has included full cooperation and advice from our legal department and from independent counsel in the UK, the decision had been made that there is no evidence that would support the institution of criminal charges in this matter,” the Commissioner said, adding the investigation was now closed from a police perspective.

Needham explained that the enquiry began in June 2007 following the submission of a report from the Auditor General’s office which had been presented to the Legislative Assembly.

“The terms of reference given were to establish whether or not any criminal offences were identified and had been committed by any person or persons involved in this project,” said Needham. “The FCU examined a large number of documents, financial transactions and accounting records. Officers travelled to Canada to conduct enquiries and interview a person involved in the financial arrangement of this project.”

Local interviews with what Needham described as all the key players were also conducted locally. Reports were submitted to the Legal Department along the way and independent advice sought as the enquiry progressed, and Needham added that the FCU had conducted a full and professional enquiry.

Needham said that the independent Senior Queens Counsel from Legal Chambers in London agreed that there was no evidence to warrant a prosecution. Both he and George told the press that there would be no recommendations and it was no longer a matter for the police. Needham noted that for a crime to have been committed the police need to prove dishonesty, and during the investigation, which he insisted was not hindered in any way, he had concluded that no criminal act had taken place.

Speaking in the wake of the police announcement, Dan Duguay, the Auditor General, said he was pleased that the police had concluded their investigation and he respected that the FCU had found no evidence of a crime. He added, however, that he stood by his earlier comments that there had been a wanton disregard for public funds during the financing of the project which he agreed was not necessarily a criminal offence.

“I certainly sent the report to FCU because I believed there was the potential for a crime but wasting public funds is not a crime and I have never said it was. They have clearly found no evidence of a criminal act,” said Duguay. He drew attention to what had raised his suspicions and pointed to the area in his report that indicated some $600,000 had been paid to financial advisers. He said he had questioned these fees because he and his team of auditors were unable to establish any work of substance to justify the sum.

 “The payment up front of excessive fees for introductions, advisory roles or facilitators in any government project would always be a red flag to a public auditor,” he said. “I have never been given any indication from anywhere that the content of the report was wrong.”

Duguay said that his office and the police look at these things from different perspectives, and explained that when he sees such incredible disregard for public money it is logical to suspect that there might be a criminal motivation, but that was clearly not proven in this case.



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