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May 30, 2005

Commission of Inquiry Chair seeks arrest of witness

Story PictureTonight there is a file sitting on the desk of the Director of Public Prosecutions asking for the arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of the Development Finance Corporation, Troy Gabb. His alleged crime? Refusing to provide crucial documents to an officially appointed commission of inquiry into the financial affairs of the D.F.C. This afternoon Chairman of the commission David Price said the move is the latest in what has become a quagmire of legislation and legalities. Regarding Gabb, Price told News Five this afternoon that since the commission’s first meeting on March twenty-first, the C.E.O. was served with a formal summons to submit a list of documents needed to start its investigations. But since then the D.F.C. boss, through his attorney, has countered that under article eighteen of the D.F.C. Act, he cannot comply with the commission’s requests. A deadline was then set, May twenty-seventh, for Gabb to produce the documentation or face prosecution. On Friday morning, we understand that Gabb showed up for the meeting with his lawyer and maintained his position. The commission held its ground, informing Gabb that it would then move to prosecute. Asking for a time out, Gabb and his attorney, Michel Chebat, left the room but returned only to agree that they would submit information already in the public domain. Today, Price told News Five that based on legal advice, prosecuting Gabb is their only recourse.

David Price, Chairman, DFC Commission of Inquiry
?On Friday evening, I prepared that official complaint in the form of a sworn affidavit. This morning, that sworn affidavit was delivered to the Director of the Public Prosecution as per Section Eighteen of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The prosecution is therefore in the hands of the D.P.P. However, this is a summary jurisdiction offence, which means it will be tried in the Magistrate?s Court rather than the Supreme Court. The DPP informed me that he will then instruct the police to begin the process for summoning, arresting, and charging Mr. Gabb before a Magistrate?s Court and then a date will be set for that trial.?

At the heart of the case against Gabb will be whether the powers of the Commission of Inquiry Act supersede those of the D.F.C. Act’s secrecy clause. Tonight we understand that some legal minds maintain that the most recently enacted law takes precedence, which in this case would be the D.F.C. Act. However, Chairman Price contends the issues at hand are not so clear-cut. Price says the commission asked the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to change the Commission of Inquiry Act, but the request was denied.

David Price
?Section Nine of the Commissions of Inquiry Act empowers a commission to legally summon persons to give evidence under oath and to produce books, documents, records, etcetera. It is like a summons issued by any other court, carrying with it that legislative power. Section Eighteen of the D.F.C. Act entitled ?Secrecy? says that no officer, director, etcetera from D.F.C. is authorised to disclose anything that come to their attention during the course of their duties. And in fact, all personnel at D.F.C. are expected to preserve secrecy in the institution. It goes on further to say that if there is any breech of that, they would be liable on summary conviction to either a fine, imprisonment, or both. And that is the apparent conflict between the two.?

Janelle Chanona
?So how do you determine who supersedes who??

David Price
?That is apparently impossible to determine.?

?Commissions of Inquiry have not gotten anybody anywhere in general. There might be exceptions to that of course and all of us know that. All of us who are involved in government, politics and law know that. But that is not to say that that is the way it ought to be or that is the way it ought to remain.?

?This particular one is being hindered by a legislative impediment. But the same people who sit in the executive and set up the commission of inquiry, are the same ones who have a majority in the legislature. So if they want to open the door for a thorough investigation, it is not like in the United States where there is a separation between legislature and the executive, the same executive can take off their executive hats, put on their legislative hats and change the law and ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out. The obvious question arises, why isn?t that happening??

?Public interest trumps private needs. The investigation into D.F.C. is prompted by public interest based on public monies that have not yet been accounted for. And I would want to think, and the commission thinks, that public interest transcend, take precedence over private needs. Which is to say that in the interest of public interest, the commission ought to have access to private documents. But it needs to be reiterated that the commission is not investigating as journalists do for publication. So when we have access to private records, it is not as if we will run to Janelle Chanona and say, ?see this one got a loan.? It is to find if wrongdoing occurred at D.F.C.?

Chairman Price is joined on the D.F.C. commission by Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord and Merlene Bailey Martinez. It is not known when or even if D.P.P. Kirk Anderson will seek Troy Gabb’s arrest.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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