Embattled CMU president greets captain, crew of ship on inaugural visit to Port Antonio

Sunday, November 03, 2019

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THREE weeks after he was arrested and charged with fraud-related crimes, Professor Fritz Pinnock resurfaced publicly on Friday to greet the captain and crew of a ship as it docked in Port Antonio for the first time.

Professor Pinnock, the president of Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), was on hand to embrace western Jamaica-born Captain Hamish Elliott, and members of his more than 300-strong crew as the vessel Seabourn Sojourn, with 450 passengers, docked at Ken Wright Pier in Errol Flynn Marina.

Dressed in a business suit, Professor Pinnock went on board and joined in the festivities by sipping juice and exchanging pleasantries with those who were sharing in the historic moment.

The embattled CMU president did not speak on his legal troubles, but told the Jamaica Observer what the ship's visit meant to the economy of the Caribbean island, which depends on tourism as one of its main sources of revenue.

Professor Pinnock had been on extended leave from CMU even before he was arrested and charged. He took an initial period of leave of absence, resumed work, but went off on leave again. It was during his second time away from the institution that agents of the State arrested him, along with former Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid; the ex-minister's wife Sharen; daughter Sharelle; and Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Brown's Town Division in the St Ann Municipal Corporation, Kim Brown Lawrence.

Professor Pinnock, in his first public interview with the media since he faced the court, underscored the importance of the vessel's visit to Jamaica.

“This port is very important as this is a high-end ship. This is a luxury class, as most of the ships we have been getting are in the mass category, and for this ship to come here and to have a second call in December is progress for Jamaica,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“To target high-end ships coming here will add greater value to the Jamaican economy. We have excellent marine pilots who are able to navigate the ships into the port of Port Antonio along with the captain, as a ship about 750 feet can safely come in here.

“The waters are pretty calm most of the time as it is a sheltered harbour, so the access is not so much of a challenge. This represents part of the future; and with Cuba opening up we are going to see some new styles of cruising. Port Antonio plays a different part and it brings a different diversity to Jamaican cruising. This port is reserved for the more boutique ships, like Port Royal which is to come, and I'm very excited.

He also saw a positive in the number of crew assigned to look after the guests.

“Here (Port Antonio) is for the more upscale ships and we are to focus on the more luxury yachts as the ship has 450 passengers and over 300 crew. That is almost a 1.5 ratio of passenger to crew, which is very good. It is showing the high-end class of the ship and this is one of the few calls of this ship,” Pinnock said.

The ship, he said, came from Los Angeles through the Panama Canal. “This is the major stop and it speaks very highly of Jamaica and the future. Port Antonio needs to define itself it's more for the boutique market.”

Dr Pinnock, Reid and the other accused are due back in court on January 23, 2020.

Pinnock and Reid were charged mid-October with conspiracy to defraud, possession of criminal property, engaging in a transaction involving criminal property, misconduct in public office and corruption.

Allegations are that $56 million of State money is involved $55 million allegedly defrauded from CMU and $1 million from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Reid's wife, daughter, and Brown Lawrence are all facing charges of conspiracy to defraud and possession of criminal property.

Investigators from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, and Financial Investigation Division made the arrests.

Those probing the case allege that Pinnock and Reid, among other claims, conspired to pay money over to Reid with bogus ledgers for which invoices were prepared.

Police investigators also say that Sharen Reid collected $1 million from an account held by Reid's helper. The helper was assigned to Reid as an entitlement. Further allegations are that Sharelle Reid withdrew money from automated banking machines with a card allegedly taken from the helper to whose account money was lodged.

– Everard Owen contributed to this story

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