Cash Plus case — a troubling reality and painful reminder

Friday, May 26, 2017

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You can't help but feel the frustration of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Miss Paula Llewellyn and her staff.One would have thought that, in a society such as ours, more people would understand that court cases rely heavily on witness testimony to secure convictions. But that was not what transpired on Wednesday when Mr Carlos Hill was in court facing multiple fraud charges.

As has already been reported, of the 16 witnesses who had indicated to the Office of the DPP that they would attend court and give evidence, only one showed up on Wednesday.

According to the DPP, and indeed Mr Hill's lawyer, that one witness alone could not have presented the prosecution a chance to successfully argue the State's case given the nature of the charges against the man whose unregulated investment scheme, Cash Plus, collapsed in 2008 with $10 billion owed to more than 40,000 investors.

What was needed was testimony from more people who were directly seduced by Mr Hill to place their money in the entity with the promise of 10 per cent profit monthly. It would not have been enough to say they had heard it through someone else.

Some also lost interest when they found out that they would not get back their money because this was a criminal and not a civil case.

Most of the witnesses, Ms Llewellyn argued, had disengaged from the process in what she described as a demonstration of unenlightened self-interest. While acknowledging the fact that many of these burnt investors were ashamed, or felt foolish, and so didn't want people to know that they lost money in an unregulated entity, she pointed to a troubling reality in Jamaica — people fail to appreciate that for trials to be successful they need all the elements to secure convictions.

In other words, detailed investigation, supported by carefully obtained and vetted evidence, as well as witness testimony in court that can stand up to cross-examination are critical.

What we found most interesting about this matter is that, as far as we are aware, none of the people who lost money in Cash Plus thought it prudent to file a suit against the company or its principal.

Maybe, as Ms Llewellyn pointed out, the shame factor was at play. However, people can't continue to claim that they have no faith in the justice system if they choose to avoid the avenues it offers to the public for redress. They can't, as Ms Llewellyn was at pains to point out on Wednesday, disengage but still want to get the best of the system.

This case, though, is a painful reminder of the fact that our justice system moves with the pace of a tortoise. The backlog of cases is too heavy and that, we believe, contributes to the view held by many people that justice is elusive, especially to untitled people and those of little means.

It shouldn't take all of nine years for any case to be heard, tried and completed. That simply does not inspire confidence in the justice system which, to be brutally honest, needs major surgery.

The authorities need to use this unfortunate development to further hasten the necessary improvements.




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