News

'My phone is tapped!'

* Forbes says cops listening in on his conversations * Bicknell's medical condition caused angry reaction — Vaz

By DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor - Operations allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 27, 2012    

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SENIOR Superintendent of Police James Forbes charged yesterday that his phones were tapped and cops were listening in on his conversations.

"I am not going to give them anything to use so I won't speak with you now," Forbes told the Jamaica Observer in response to a request for an interview.

Forbes, the highly regarded head of the Police Community and Safety Branch, has found himself in the middle of an alleged bribery scandal also involving former Information Minister Daryl Vaz and businessman Bruce Bicknell of Tankweld.

Forbes reportedly became involved when former Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas suggested mediation to Sergeant Jubert Llewellyn, who was said to be conflicted after Vaz approached him about the bribery allegation against Bicknell, his close friend.

Asked for his comment, Forbes, sounding very calm on the phone, said the account of his involvement was not correct but that he would not speak on the matter as his phones were tapped.

"I would not want to discuss it for more reasons than one. My phone is wired and they are listening in on my conversation. I'm not giving them anything to use. The most I am willing to say is that my lawyer will speak to this at the appropriate time," he said.

The Jamaican airwaves were saturated last week with news broken by the Observer that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had cited Bicknell, Vaz and Forbes after bribery allegations against Bicknell by traffic cops, which ballooned into a scandal now before the courts.

Forbes was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice while Vaz was charged under corruption laws.

Vaz, who also spoke with the Observer last weekend, provided an explanation for his involvement and why a minor traffic incident escalated into the arrest of Bicknell on April 9 this year.

He suggested that as Bicknell was a very wealthy man, a $5,000 traffic ticket would be "no sweat off his back to pay" but that he got angry when the traffic cops wanted to take him to the police station without any concern for the safety of his teenaged daughter and her school friend who were in his car when it was stopped on the way to the Norman Manley International Airport.

"Bicknell was taking his daughter and her school friend to catch a flight to go back to school when he was stopped for speeding on the Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard. He was subsequently arrested for allegedly offering to bribe the police officer and granted bail. I heard about it two days later.

"Bicknell told me that he was co-operating with the police until they suggested that he put the two girls in a taxi to continue the journey to the airport. He told them he was not comfortable with sending the girls in a taxi, but that he had a friend who was on his way back from the airport. Could they wait until he had arrived where they were, to pick up the girls and take them to the airport?

"The cops refused and insisted that they were taking him to the station and he should send the girls in a taxi to the airport. He then got very livid and the matter got somewhat out of hand. They then handcuffed him and took him to the Elletson Road Police Station.

"I did not get involved with any intention to get a traffic ticket squashed or to get the bribery charge dropped. My sole purpose was to explain to the officer that Bicknell's outburst of anger was most likely due to a medical condition, which predisposed him to such anger when he was stressed in the extreme. I also told them I believed him when he said he offered no bribe because he is not that kind of a person," Vaz related.

Contacted for comment, Bicknell's attorney Peter Champagnie said: "It would be irresponsible, reckless and out of order for me to do so. I can't discuss my client's medical condition or lack thereof in a matter like this."

He said he had no doubt that Vaz had no intention of committing any breach but he could not speak for Bicknell.

"What I can say is that my client is innocent and he has an excellent defence."

Champagnie also expressed concern that the statement of a witness in the case had been quoted in the media.

"It's the first time I have seen this in a matter which is before the court and we are very concerned. We have written to the DPP to express this.

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