Attorney General’s bold-faced lie on political prosecutions

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Attorney General Carl Bethel

Attorney General Carl Bethel must be living in a fantasy world.

During his contribution in the Senate last week, Bethel denied that the government initiated politically motivated prosecutions.

Continuing his web of deception, Bethel said the PLP prosecuted FNMs too.

He was referring to the ammunition possession case of former Senator John Bostwick and the bribery trial of FNM meritorious member Fred Ramsey for his role in the international Alstom scandal.

Bethel conveniently forgot that the FNM campaigned on the promise that supposedly corrupt PLPs would “go to jail” if they won.

Eager to fulfill this campaign promise, former Cabinet Ministers Shane Gibson and Kenred Dorsett and Senator Frank Smith were hauled before the courts on corruption charges soon after the FNM’s election win.

The charges were filed by the newly formed Anti-Corruption Unit, which was headed by then ACP Paul Rolle, who is now the police commissioner.

By contrast, Bostwick was arrested after a security screener at the Grand Bahama airport found bullets in his backpack. Ramsey’s case stemmed from allegations of bribe payments from a former Alstom executive, whose claims sparked prosecutions of officials in multiple countries.

On the other hand, the trials of Gibson and Smith revealed improper political interference.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and then Health Minister Dr Duane Sands were judicially condemned for their conduct in the Smith case. Phone records confirmed that they called Smith’s accuser Barbara Hanna multiple times before police became involved in the case.

Then Sands awarded Hanna a multimillion dollar contract days before she was scheduled to testi-LIE against Smith.

Gibson’s case revealed police coached witnesses and altered statements in an effort to boost their case. Johnathan Ash testified that he went to police after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis suggested in Parliament that there was something illicit about the payments he had received for post-Hurricane Matthew cleanup work.

“Let me remind every Bahamian that because of the commitment to fair and impartial justice by this government, The Bahamas now has a constitutionally independent and impartial director of public prosecutions, for whom I hold the highest personal regard and respect,” Bethel said.

However, this claim is laughable as disgraced police officer Debra Thompson admitted that DPP Garvin Gaskin was aware that she had brought the prosecution’s two main witnesses in the Gibson case together to “synchronize” their statements and he did nothing about it.

Bethel was widely criticized by FNM supporters when he said in June 2017 that his office had not received any files in relation to complaints of misconduct of former government officials.

“I’m not prepared to prejudge, I have no information apart from what I may have read in the newspapers and as I said, anything referred to the Attorney General’s Office, whether by another minister or by the general public is referred to the appropriate officials for the appropriate treatment,” he said.

This did not sit well with FNM supporters who were promised on the campaign trial by the party that if elected, former members of the Christie Administration would be thrown in jail.

The witch hunt was a desperate move by a desperate party to appease its base.

The PLP had no horse in the race in the trials of the FNM members. And there was no added public expense to prosecute. A policeman prosecuted Bostwick and the DPP prosecuted Ramsey.

As a result of compelling evidence, both FNMs were convicted.

However, the FNM government shelled out millions on high-priced foreign Queen’s Counsels on baseless cases that couldn’t hold up in court.

They were embarrassed in a high-profile way when the cases collapsed.

Bethel referred to the upcoming fraud trial of former FNM Cabinet Mimister Elma Chase as proof that prosecutions are based on evidence and not politics.

But the DPP’s Office hasn’t engaged high-priced foreign counsel for her case like they did in the case of the former PLPs.