Saturday 24 October, 2020

Petrojam Report: Wheatley takes legal action

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Former Energy Minister in the Holness administration, Dr Andrew Wheatley on Tuesday filed a claim in the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the findings related to him in the Integrity Commission's report on its probe of the state-owned Petrojam oil refinery.

The 215-page report was tabled in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, following which Wheatley publicly refuted its claims of nepotism, cronyism and dishonesty on his part. 

Wheatley's claim for the judicial review of the commissions’ findings and its report was filed by his legal representative, Chukwuemeka Cameron, on the basis that there "were no reasonable grounds for suspecting that Dr Wheatley perjured himself, as such the action of referring the matter to the Director of Corruption Prosecution was irrational and ultra vires," according to a press release by the attorney.

Wheatley, in his claim, argues that where a report calls a person’s reputation into question in a direct way, both that person and the public generally have an interest in ensuring that any criticism is made upon a proper legal basis. It would be contrary to the public interest if the Courts were not prepared to protect the right to reputation in such a context, the release said.

The release added that Wheatley, by way of an applicant for leave for judicial review, is challenging the lawfulness and fairness of conclusions made by the commission - in particular, the conclusions that he was less than truthful and dishonest in his representation to the Director of Investigation when he described Sophia Deer as his former technical assistant, and his representation that he divested all matters pertaining to donations within his constituency to the late Councillor Palmer was insincere.

Wheatley is asking the court for an order of Mandamus requiring the Director of Investigation to recommend to the Commission to publicly exonerate him of allegations concerning acts of impropriety and nepotism. In addition, his lawyer wants an order quashing the adverse conclusions, recommendations and findings made against the applicant that were not grounded in fact nor law. Wheatley is claiming that the conclusions, recommendations and criticisms made of him in the report are invalid and were not made upon a proper legal basis. 

“We are asking for permission to review the decision of the Commission to recommend that Dr Wheatley be prosecuted for perjury, in particular we are asking the court for an order to quash the decision of the Director of Investigation to refer the issue of the representations made by the Applicant concerning Ms Sophia Deer to the Director of Corruption Prosecution,” said Cameron in the release.

“In addition, we would like a Declaration that the Director of Investigation has not established through the evidence presented that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the Dr. made a false statement when he stated that Ms Deer was his former Technical Assistant. This was indeed truthful as evidenced by an employment contract dated March 15,” he added.

A Declaration that the decision of the Respondent to refer the report to the Director of Corruption Prosecution was ultra vires and irrational, is also being sought.

The Director of Investigation having completed his investigation concluded that there were no instances of nepotism or improprieties in the actions of Wheatley in relation to his relationship with Deer in the context of the investigation.

“Section 11E of the Perjury Act states that a person shall not give evidence before the commission that he knows is false or misleading in a material particular. The Director of Investigation presented no reasonable ground for believing that the statement that Ms Deer was the Applicant’s former Technical Assistant was false,” Cameron stated. 

According to the release, the Director of Investigations having found that the matter which gave rise to the investigation in relation to Deer did not constitute an act of corruption or any wrong doing, failed to recommend to the commission that Wheatley be publicly exonerated of culpability which he is obliged to do in accordance with the law.

“We are hoping to achieve that public exoneration, by taking immediate legal action. We are confident that justice will prevail,” Cameron said.

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