How Ruel, co-accused allegedly milked over $50m in State funds

Friday, October 11, 2019

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FORMER education minister and Senator Ruel Reid and his four co-accused are alleged to have milked more than $55 million from the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and in excess of $1 million from the Ministry of Education.

The list of allegations against Reid, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock, and Jamaica Labour Party Councillor and businesswoman Kim Brown Lawrence was read by Senior Clerk of Court Hansurd Lawson during the preliminary hearing at the Corporate Area Parish Court in St Andrew yesterday.

Lawson said the Financial Investigations Division, the lead agency in the corruption probe, in October 2018 commenced investigations into allegations involving several significant payments made by the CMU.

Allegations are that “Reid conspired with Pinnock” to make payments to individuals connected to Reid but not employed to CMU, which saw “fictitious invoices” being made up. Several individuals connected to Reid were paid, and those payments were allegedly authorised by Pinnock. According to the list of allegations, those individuals did not perform the services they were invoiced for, and would eventually hand over the monies to Reid.

“We have statements from persons about this,” Lawson said.

Allegations are also that Brown Lawrence was contracted to provide meals to students, but no meals were ever provided. Allegations are also that drivers and an image consultant, who were not directly employed by the CMU but were engaged by Reid personally, were among the individuals paid from CMU funds.

It was further alleged that there were WhatsApp messages from Reid to Pinnock about payments, and that Reid used his influence to have people employed to the CMU and also “instructed Mr Pinnock to hire his wife” Sharen.

Allegations were also that Reid, who by virtue of his position as education minister was entitled to a helper who would be paid through the ministry, did not hire such a person but instead engineered the situation so that the payments were made to another individual in his employ as a helper, who on his directives handed over a debit card to his daughter Sharelle. Reid's wife is alleged to have received more than $1 million from the “helper's account”.

The five, who were arrested and charged on Wednesday, were yesterday brought before the court and offered bail on conditions with sureties.

— Alicia Dunkley-Willis


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