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Court frees businessman Bruce Bicknell

Friday, July 18, 2014    

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BUSINESSMAN Bruce Bicknell yesterday walked free from the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court after the prosecution withdrew a bribery charge against him.

The Tankweld boss was arrested and charged with breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act in April 2012, following allegations that he gave Sergeant Jubert Llewellyn an envelope with $2,000 when he was being ticketed for speeding along the Sir Florizel Glasspole Highway in Kingston.

West Portland Member of Parliament, Darly Vaz, was similarly charged after he allegedly visited the police sergeant at Elletson Road Police Station and begged him to drop the charges against the businessman, while claiming that Bicknell was not well and would lose his US visa if jailed.

Yesterday, when the case was called up in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Tracy-Ann Johnson informed the magistrate that the prosecution would be pursuing the charge against Vaz, even though it has withdrawn the matter against Bicknell.

She told the court that the decision to withdraw the matter against Bicknell followed a request for dismissal from attorneys Peter Champagnie and Queen Counsel George Soutar, who represent Bicknell and Vaz, respectively.

According to the prosecutor, after careful consideration Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn realised that the Crown would be greatly challenged in its attempt to successfully prove that Bicknell was trying to bribe the officer. Johnson told the court that Sergeant Llewellyn was uncertain whether or not the businessman was actually trying to bribe him and also about the actual words that Bicknell had said to him, which led him to believe that he was attempting to bribe him, which were cited as weakness in the case and the apparent challenges the Crown would have in prosecuting the matter.

The DPP ruled, however, that the case against Vaz would have to be determined on its own merit.

Vaz is scheduled to appear in court today to apply for variation of his bailing conditions so that he can travel and a mention date in his matter is to be set.

Champagnie, while extending gratitude to the DPP for freeing his client, said that the development should not be viewed as an exceptional case as it is a practice that has been going on for years in various cases before the court.

Bicknell was also charged for attempting to pervert the course of justice along with former Senior Superintendent of Police James Forbes in relation to the said incident. However, the businessman was freed of that charge in February, while Forbes was later tried and was found guilty. He was subsequently ordered to pay $800,000 or serve six months in prison but is currently appealing the conviction.

Forbes was charged for his intervention in the incident in which he allegedly convened a meeting at his St Andrew offices with Bicknell, Llewellyn and Sergeant Delon Lewis -- who was involved in the arrest of Bicknell -- to allegedly have the matter resolved.

— Tanesha Mundle

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