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Court rules against Ruel Edwards

Now that the High Court has ruled in favour of the Integrity Commission’s inquiry into alleged financial wrong doings at the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB), embattled former Chief Executive (CEO) Officer Ruel Edwards now has 42 days starting last week Friday, to appeal the judge’s decision in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.

High Court Judge, Justice Godfrey Smith, who handed down the ruling last week Friday at the St. George’s High Court held that the Commission did act in accordance with the law when it started its inquiry in August 2018 into the MNIB allegations.

The MNIB probe was sparked following a series of articles in THE NEW TODAY newspaper about questionable dealings at the state entity.

The then Chairman of the Board, Samuel Andrew sought to distance himself from alleged wrongdoing and accused Edwards of hiding a number of things from the board.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who is the line Minister for MNIB got into the act and told the nation that he would set up a public inquiry into the state body to cover the period 2013-2018 under Edward’s watch as CEO.

However, in August 2018, the Integrity Commission announced that it was taking over the investigations by the power invested in it by the Integrity in Public Life Act but stated that the probe will be done in private.

Edwards strongly objected and moved to block the Commission’s private inquiry, in a claim brought by the law office of the Cajeton Hood-led Justis Chambers with assistance from a team of lawyers including one from Trinidad and Tobago.

In his claim, Edwards contended that the Integrity Commission, headed by former President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Anande Trotman-Joseph, does not have the authority in law to conduct the investigation into the MNIB matter on its own initiative.

It was attorney Hood’s argument that among other things, the Integrity in Public Life Act recognises two (2) types of investigations, one (1) where someone files a declaration pursuant to the act and they (the Integrity Commission) believe that there is something more into that then they can have an investigation”.

The attorney also pointed out that “if somebody makes a complaint in writing and gives reasons for the complaint, they (the Commission) are supposed to look at the complaint and decide whether or not the complaint merits further investigation and communicate with the person. If they think it doesn’t merit further investigation, then they tell the person so.”

Hood felt that “if the integrity Commission concludes that the complaint made under the specified areas of grievances merits an investigation it is only then that they can do an investigation.”

Hood alleged in the claim filed in court that nobody is known to have made any complaint to the Integrity Commission and called on the Trotman-Joseph body to call off the probe.

However, in his ruling, Justice Smith said it is undisputed that the investigation by the Commission was not triggered by any complaint made to the body but that the body had authority to do it and that the court is “satisfied that there is no proper basis to grant any of the reliefs sought by the claimant in this case.”

Justice Smith also noted that “in relation to the claimant’s statement of facts and issues, it was filed after the hearing date of June 5 this year without the leave of the Court.”

Additionally, he said, “more importantly, the issue of the Commission’s bias and lack of independence were not pleaded,” and that there is nothing in Edwards’ three (3) affidavits “to suggest an intention to challenge the Commission’s investigation on either of these grounds”.

“The issues of bias and lack of independence appear to be an afterthought. To permit the claimant to advance arguments now on these issues for which there is no bias in his pleadings and when the Commission would have had no opportunity to rebut these fresh assertions with affidavit evidence would be improper and wholly unfair to the Commission.”

Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson, along with Trinidad-born Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes represented the Integrity Commission during the Court proceedings.

“Essentially what the Court is saying in the judgement is that once there is an allegation of corruption or suspicion of corruption, the Commission can act on it, and in this case, the allegation was published by a newspaper in a series of articles”, said Ferguson after the ruling.

THE NEW TODAY has not been able to make direct contact with Attorney Hood, however, a source close to his Chambers said that the ruling has been forwarded to the Trinidadian-based attorney working on the case for review and noted that an appeal is likely to follow.

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