17 hidden accounts
Customs officer facing corruption charges for failing to report assets

A Customs officer who allegedly failed to disclose 17 bank accounts which she held from 2018 to 2020 is to be charged with breaches of the Corruption (Prevention) Act (CPA) and the Integrity Commission Act (ICA).

In a ruling released on Tuesday, Keisha Prince-Kameka, the director of corruption prosecution at the commission, said upon careful consideration she determined that the Customs officer, Syretta Hoilett, should be charged "for breaches of Section 15(2)(b) of the Corruption (Prevention) Act and Section 43(2)(a) of the Integrity Commission Act for knowingly making a false statement in a statutory declaration".

In a report tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday the commission's Director of Investigation (DI) Kevon Stephenson said a probe was launched after it was alleged that Hoilett failed to disclose certain assets in her statutory declarations filed for periods ending December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020.

"The evidence gathered from various financial institutions showed that Miss Hoilett held 21 bank accounts during the period 2016-2020 which were not disclosed in her statutory declarations," said Stephenson.

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, four of the referenced accounts were closed within the year they were opened, prior to the close of the respective filing periods (2020 and 2018). For this reason, only 17 of the 21 accounts formed part of the DI's considerations in respect of the finds made herein," added Stephenson.

He said Hoilett reported only two of the accounts in her declarations to the commission.

According to the investigator, between 2018 and 2020 Hoilett opened 13 accounts with several financial institutions, four were opened in 2018, five in 2019, and four in 2020. She also closed 11 accounts over the said period.

"Considering the frequency of Miss Hoilett's interactions with the accounts in question, her knowledge of the legal requirement to disclose same (demonstrated by her disclosure of two of the accounts over the period), and the significant nature of her omissions, the question arises as to whether her omissions were deliberate or inadvertent. It is reasonable to deduce that the facts outlined above are in favour of the former," said Stephenson

He concluded that by her failure to disclose the accounts to the commission, Hoilett contravened the CPA and ICA by "making false statements in the statutory declarations she filed with the commission".

But Stephenson reported that, "Notwithstanding the foregoing, [he] found nothing on the evidence to suggest that Miss Hoilett used the accounts inappropriately or that she committed any other breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act or the Integrity Commission Act."

He referred his report to Prince-Kameka who ruled that Hoilett should be charged.

BY ARTHUR HALL Senior staff reporter halla@jamaicaobserver.com

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