Friday 15 November, 2019

How things came crumbling down for Ruel Reid

Ruel Reid

Ruel Reid

Former Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, his wife, Sharen and daughter, Sharelle; along with the President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Professor Fritz Pinnock, and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Councillor for the Brown’s Town Division in North West St Ann, Kim Brown-Lawrence, have all been slapped with multiple fraud-related charges after being taken into custody on Wednesday.

The charges, according to the police, include breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), and misconduct in a public office at common law.

The five, who appeared in court on Thursday and were each offered bail, had been picked up by detectives attached to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), the Financial Investigation Division and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (C-TOC).

They have been described by the joint investigating agencies as “the main suspects implicated in multi-million dollar corruption and fraudulent schemes perpetrated at the Ministry of Education, Caribbean Maritime University and other Government entities falling under the portfolio responsibility of Mr Ruel Reid, former Senator and Minister of Government.”

The five were picked up in a co-ordinated, simultaneous operation that began in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, and included four locations across the parishes of St Andrew, St Catherine and St Ann.

Reid and members of his family exited their St Andrew home under a blanket after several hours of searching at the premises, and were whisked away in unmarked police vehicles.

Pinnock was arrested at his Hellshire, St Catherine home, while Brown-Lawrence was picked up at her home in St Ann.

Reid, a lay preacher, former senator and principal of Jamaica College, has been at the centre of the scandal.

Below, Loop News presents a timeline on the rise and fall of Ruel Reid:

The Munro College old boy and teacher first came to national attention in 2004 when he emerged as president-elect of the influential Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA). He served his term as JTA president from 2005-2006, and was one of the most well-known presidents of the teachers’ union. That popularity saw Reid being appointed principal of Jamaica College in 2006, with a mandate to turn around disciplinary concerns at the prestigious, all-male school. He has largely been credited with restoring JC to its former glory and prominence.

When the JLP formed the Government after the 2007 General Elections, Prime Minister Bruce Golding appointed Andrew Holness as his Education Minister. Holness, in turn, named Reid as one of his advisors, and the two developed a close relationship.

After the JLP was defeated in the 2011 General Elections, Reid concentrated on his substantive post as principal of JC.

In November 2013, he and Dr Nigel Clarke (now Finance Minister) were appointed as Opposition senators by Holness. But by 2015 he was out of the Senate, as the Constitutional Court ruled that pre-signed resignation letters that were used by Holness to remove Dr Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams from the Senate, were null and void. Tufton and Williams had backed Audley Shaw in his failed leadership challenge against Holness.

When the JLP returned to power after the February 2016 General Elections with Holness as Prime Minister, Reid’s stocks soared even further. He not only made a return to the Senate, but Holness also appointed him Minister of Education, Youth and Information. He was widely regarded as one of Holness’ close friends.

However, Reid was not content to remain a senator, and soon set his sights on entering representational politics. He was named as the JLP’s caretaker/candidate for the North West St Ann constituency, and was set to run on the party’s ticket in the next general election. However, he was forced to resign in March as a result of the corruption scandal.

The last seven months have seen the dimming of Reid’s once rising star.

On March 18, the Opposition People’s National Party first raised questions about possible corruption, including nepotism and the misuse of public funds, at the Education Ministry and some of its affiliated agencies, including the CMU.

Two days later, Holness met with Reid and demanded his resignation. Reid also resigned from the Senate.

On March 23, detectives raided his College Green home and removed computers and other devices.

Also in March, Reid, who was on secondment from JC, was sent on leave by the school’s board.

About the same time, news emerged that several JLP functionaries, including former JLP MP for North West St Ann, Othneil Lawrence, were contracted by the CMU over which Reid had oversight responsibility. Lawrence denied reports that his employment with the CMU was appeasement for him being replaced as the JLP’s caretaker/candidate for North West St Ann.

News soon emerged that Reid’s wife, Sharen, was also employed at the CMU.

By April, questions were raised about the operation of the Career Advancement Programme –Youth Employment Solutions (CAP-YES) for at-risk youth. It was alleged that fraudulent payments had been made to persons who did no work in relation to the programme.

Rumours soon surfaced that the CMU had hosted Reid’s 50th birthday party aboard a luxury yacht in April 2017. That was denied by Pinnock when he appeared before Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee on May 15.

By July, there was a major development in the case when a legal opinion came from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), that the “key players in the ongoing Ruel Reid/Ministry of Education/CMU corruption probe could have breached four criminal laws.”

DPP Paula Llewelyn said there was also conduct that could have breached two common laws, as well as administrative breaches.

The information, which was contained in a 13-page document, was sent to investigators attached to the Financial Investigation Division (FID), who are leading the probe, and copied to Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson.

On July 23, Minister with responsibility for education, Karl Samuda, confirmed rumours that had been circulating for months, that Sharen Reid was employed at the CMU as the Manager for Legal Affairs. She had been on the CMU’s payroll since July 2017. Samuda said she was a trained lawyer, although questions were subsequently raised about the level of her qualification for the job.

On September 23, Reid went on radio and declared that he was still the JLP caretaker/candidate for North West St Ann. But that position was shot down the same day by JLP General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang, who stated that Reid had in fact tendered his resignation from the position on September 15.

On Monday, October 7, Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, accused the Government of “normalising corruption”, and demanded an update on the Reid probe and other investigations related to scandals that have hobbled the Holness Administration. Phillips also threatened protests, and questioned the circumstances under which Pinnock had returned to work at the CMU, this after going on a self-imposed leave of absence since July, ostensibly to facilitate the investigations that were not yet complete.

On Tuesday, October 8, the CMU announced that Pinnock would again proceed on leave to facilitate the probe.

On Wednesday, October 9, the country woke up to the news that Reid, his wife and daughter, along with Pinnock and Brown-Lawrence, were arrested after their homes were searched and items seized by investigators.

They were later questioned and charged, and appeared in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on Thursday, October 10.

They were each granted bail and are due back in court on January 23, 2020.

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