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Vaz steps aside - Politician, senior cop to face court Sep 5

Big show of support for cop, politician and businessman

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court coordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 23, 2012    

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MEMBER of Parliament Daryl Vaz yesterday morning stepped down from his shadow minister post for the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), as a result of damning corruption allegations over which he and his two co-accused appeared in court hours earlier.

"As a result of my facing the court today, I have indicated to the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party that I will take leave of absence with immediate effect from my sole position in the party, that of shadow minister on ICT and Digital Society Development," Vaz said in a release.

"I have taken this principled position as it is not only the correct course of action but also I would like to distance and minimise the effect on my beloved party as this matter is strictly of a personal nature," said the West Portland MP, adding that he is "confident of being vindicated".

Earlier in the morning Vaz, Tank-Weld CEO Bruce Bicknell and Senior Superintendent James Forbes appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's

Court where they were charged and later offered $250,000 bail each and told to surrender their travel documents.

Vaz is charged with breaching Section 14 (2) of the Corruption Prevention Act, while Bicknell and Forbes have been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The case against the men will again be mentioned on September 5. They were told not to make any contact with the witnesses and were ordered fingerprinted.

The packed court -- which saw scores of senior police officers in attendance, and family members and friends of the accused men, including Vaz's father Douglas -- listened attentively yesterday as allegations were outlined.

Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Dirk Harrison said that on April 9 two policemen were conducting spot checks along the Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard in Kingston when they stopped a speeding sport utility vehicle.

The driver, later identified as 46-year-old Bicknell, presented his motor vehicle documents which is alleged to have contained $2,000, the court was told. Bicknell is alleged to have told the police sergeant that he would take care of him. He was later taken to the police station and booked on a charge of bribery.

But the court was told that shortly after that calls were made to the policemen involved in the case.

Harrison said that the 49-year-old Vaz, who was information minister in the previous JLP Government, made several calls to the policemen and visited them. It was further alleged that Vaz told the police sergeant in the case that he would be promoted if he gave Bicknell a chance, because he was not well.

In the aftermath, Forbes, 51, is said to have facilitated a meeting at his Oxford Road office with the two police officers and Bicknell in relation to the matter.

According to the prosecution, a document which was prepared for Bicknell to appear in court on the bribery matter on April 18 was given to Forbes by one of the police officers. As a result of the meeting, Bicknell did not turn up on the April court date.

The court was told that Forbes, a 32-year veteran of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, has not turned over the document to the prosecution as was requested.

The prosecution told the court that an outstanding statement from Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington is all that is needed to complete the case file. But the commissioner said in a release in the afternoon that no statement was requested of him by the prosecution.

Outside the court, Vaz, who is being represented by George Soutar, QC, told the Jamaica Observer that he stepped aside from his party post because: "Strong leadership requires decisive, unselfish and principled decision-making. And further, I want to reduce any negative fallout or effect on my party, therefore my decision was a no-brainer."

Attorney Peter Champagnie appears for Bicknell and Queen's Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown appears for Forbes.

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