Police say not enough evidence for charges in AHI

| 15/01/2009

(CNS): Police have said that following a long and in-depth investigation by the Financial Crime Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) into the Affordable Housing Initiative, no charges will be brought. According to a ruling by an Independent United Kingdom Senior Queens Counsel, there is insufficient evidence to lay any charges against any of the people involved. The announcement was made by the RCIPS on Thursday afternoon when they explained that a legal ruling was given by the leading QC after the examination of the case file, exhibits, papers, statements and interviews.

Although the RCIPS was unable to give the name of the counsel at this time, it said the ruling recommends that the investigation, which began over three years ago, now be closed.

“This has been a protracted investigation which has had oversight from legal experts both in the Cayman Islands and London,” said Superintendent Mike Needham, head of the Financial Crimes Unit. “My thanks are sent to the officers involved who worked extremely hard on this case and demonstrated a very high level of professionalism throughout these enquiries.”

The FCU investigation into the AHI began following information supplied by Auditor General Dan Duguay, who was requested by Cabinet to examine the issues surrounding the initiative. The AHI had been launched by the Untied Democratic Party when it was in government and was managed by the National Housing and Community Development Trust (NHCDT) in what was at the time Dr Frank McField’s Ministry.

Duguay produced three damning reports on the financing and management of the project and also passed over information to the FCU that he believed indicated a crime could have taken place.

Duguay told CNS yesterday that his office had worked closely with the FCU and that he believed it had conducted a thorough investigation. “I am glad that the police have made a determination and I am confident that it was fully investigated,” he said. “Now the legal department and the police have made a decision and we abide by that.”

In his reports (available here) Duguay concluded clearly that there was at the very least serious mismanagement of public money and possible misappropriation of funds within this initiative. Duguay also stated his concerns over Staunch Limited, one of the contractors.  He said in 2005 that in his opinion the management by the former Minister of Community Services had resulted in the undue disbursement of public funds and that four construction contracts had been awarded in the absence of fair and equitable process. “As part of this review, I have reviewed the activities of Staunch Limited,” he stated. ”I have numerous areas of concern and have turned over my files to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Financial Crime Unit for additional investigation.”

The Minister of Community Services with responsibility for the project at the time was Dr Frank McField who also spoke with CNS yesterday and said he felt very good about theoutcome.  “It is clear that trying to build affordable homes that people need is a controversial thing,” he said. “During the process of trying to do that I clearly made some friends but also some enemies of people who have accused me of things unbecoming. However more learned people here and in the UK have decided I did nothing wrong.”

With his name cleared McField is free to enter the political fray for the forthcoming General Election in May. However, the former minister said he was contemplating whether or not he would run for office again.

The investigation into the AHI last more than three years, and Needham said a large number of statements were taken, together with tape recorded interviews of key witnesses and the examination of paper documents and other exhibits.

The enquiry had the oversight of the Cayman Islands Legal Department, together with the overview of the whole enquiry by an eminent Independent Queens Counsel who is based in legal chambers in London.

A number of case conferences were held with the legal oversight team during the course of these enquiries and further detailed additional work was carried out as a result of these conferences. The Independent Queens Counsel made reference in his ruling to the excellent and detailed work on this case by the investigating officers and the unparalleled assistance given to him by them.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is not a ringing endorsement that the RCIPs have not discovered enough evidence to charge those subject to investigation.

    The whole situation is an embarrasment to the country.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is very sad to see that nothing is going to come out of this.  I am tired of seeing government officials making decisions and spending public funds as though it is there funds that they picked off their banana tree in the backyard.  When will government officials be held responsible for public funds?  Elections are around the corner and I believe we need a clean sweep and a fresh beginning.

    As small as our Islands may be, we have accomplished a lot and would have been able to do more if millions of dollars that isunaccounted for would have bee used to enhance the development of our schools, roads, infrastructure, and tourism products.

    I am very disappointed in the actions of these government officials who we elect.

    Concerned Caymanian

  3. Anonymous says:

    This matter should have been the subject of a Commission of Enquiry. A criminal investigation which ends in a conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges does not clear the air (notwithstanding Dr. McField’s comments). There may well be culpability falling short of criminal conduct and we should know where the responsibility lies and learn the appropriate lessons so that  this unfortunate experience is not repeated.  

  4. Anonymous says:

    Surprise, surprise. Not really. Lots of money spent on the old AHI with not much to show. At the very least the shame of achieving so little with so much public funds spent should make former politicians think twice about offerring their services again.

  5. Todd Eldridge says:

    Dear CNS Representative,

    Could you please follow-up your story on the Affordable Housing Initiative and let the public know that the National Housing Development Trust is a separate entity from Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation (SIAHDC).  SIAHDC has not been part of the audit process discussed in this article.

    Regards,

     

    Todd Eldridge

    General Manager, SIAHDC