PROVIDENCIALES, TCI -- Andrew Mitchell QC commenced his opening statement on behalf of the prosecution on Monday in the criminal trial of former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) premier Michael Misick and others, saying the case is about political corruption and financial greed.
Mitchell told Judge Paul Harrison, who is trying the case in Providenciales without a jury, that the period covered is between 2003 and 2009 and focuses on the activities of Misick who was, during this time, the chief minister (or premier, as he was to become) of the government of the TCI, and other members of his Cabinet.
During that period, ministers of government were the beneficiaries of payments from potential and/or actual developers totalling, in the case of some individuals, many millions of dollars made directly to them or the political party they represented, the Progressive National Party [PNP].
“The monies received by the ministers were in no sense monies that could be attributed to the work of honest servants of the people whom they were elected to represent,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, Misick sought instead to influence developers as to whom they should work with, rejecting the developers’ choice of Belonger partner and proposing his nominated choices of Belonger. He sought money from developers at every opportunity, even threatening to revoke Belongership if he was not paid what he claimed to be owed.
An analysis of nine land deals or developments that were negotiated during the Misick years will, Mitchell submitted on behalf of the Crown, show the way that the political establishment in the TCI was prepared to abuse their responsibilities.
“You will hear of land deals where the value of the land was so deeply discounted (not just due to the permitted discount, but also because the real value was reduced) so as to cause significant loss to government revenues. This led inexorably to the collapse of the government’s financial well-being and eventually to the need for a bail out,” he said.
According to Mitchell, this was happening after, by way of example, Michael Misick and McAllister Hanchell and their wives had been the “undeclared” beneficiaries of exclusive Centurion credit cards. Available only by invitation from American Express and reserved for the wealthiest in global society, the cards were underwritten and funded to the tune of $6 million by J&T Banka, the bank that was supporting a prospective developer of an island known as Salt Cay: Mario Hoffman.
“I say undeclared in the sense that an examination of these defendants’ finances and their declarations for the purposes of the legislators Register of Interests were silent on this and other monies, financial sponsorship or gifts which they received,” he explained.
Mitchell asserted that each defendant was enriched beyond the wildest dreams that a politician should have, by access to monies that would not be available to them simply taking account of their salaries, at the same time as surrendering to developers on matters that would have been of short or long term advantage to the government and the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, all in reality for their own personal gain.
“Investment in scholarship funds for the benefit of student Belongers is one example where the politicians were prepared to reduce or abolish the usual and expected commitment made by developers to make annual contributions to the scholarship fund for the public benefit. Hundreds of thousands should have been paid as part of a normal development agreement. Those sums were reduced in a way that we say can only be explained by seeing the monies going to the politicians,” he outlined.
Aside the “political” defendants (Misick and his former Cabinet ministers, Jeffrey Hall, Floyd Hall, Lillian Boyce and McAllister Hanchell), the remaining defendants in the case are attorneys Thomas Chalmers Misick (Michael Misick’s brother), former speaker of the House Clayton Greene, and Melbourne Wilson; and Lisa Hall, the wife of Floyd Hall, who, the Crown alleges, was an active assistant in hiding the proceeds of Floyd Hall’s corrupt income.
The attorney defendants (Thomas Chalmers Misick and Clayton Greene) allegedly received funds (lending them an appearance of legitimacy in relation to the transactions) and then made structured payments of money for the benefit of the political defendants and for their own gain.
In relation to Thomas Chalmers Misick: he allegedly laundered money for his brother Michael and benefited on his own account, particularly in relation to the prospective developments known as Dellis Cay and Joe Grant’s Cay.
In the case of Clayton Greene: he allegedly benefited, by way of example, in respect of the proposed development at Juniper Hole. He set up a secret “John Doe” account for the benefit of Floyd Hall to receive monies generated for or by corruption in relation to the development known as Water Cay.
In the case of Melbourne Wilson: in relation to the proposed development at North West Point he allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars, way beyond any fee for lawyer’s work.
As to Lisa Hall, married to Floyd Hall, a former minister and, at one stage, deputy premier, she was the recipient of funds destined for Floyd Hall following, on the Crown’s case, the corrupt payment of monies from the developer of the Seven Stars Resort.
According to Mitchell, the Crown’s case is that, rather like a well-organised collection of people breaking the law, these elected defendants nurtured criminality, encouraging it to flourish and taking full advantage of their important positions for their personal benefit.
“The defendants treated the Treasury as their own personal treasury, their attorneys as their own private bankers and their political party bank account as their own private reserve. The politician defendants abused their power, sought and obtained substantial personal financial gain,” he said.