Andrew Mitchell QC
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI -- On Monday, Andrew Mitchell QC commenced the second week of his opening statement on behalf of the prosecution in the criminal trial of former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) premier Michael Misick and others, by outlining in detail a land transaction that allegedly defrauded the TCI government of millions of dollars.
At the end of last week, Mitchell had turned to a case of alleged “land flipping” at North West Point, an area of Providenciales located approximately ten miles from Grace Bay.
David Wex, a developer from Canada, became interested in the prospect of developing the land at North West Point and sometime in 2006 he ended up, through a corporate entity, as the beneficial owner of the land, paying close to the open market value.
However, according to Mitchell, Wex paid the full value of the property to a group of Belongers who had obtained the land with the connivance of the defendant politicians (who received financial reward for their role).
The Crown’s case is that the direct Belonger beneficiaries of this alleged fraud were: (a) Quinton Hall (brother of Floyd Hall); (b) Jeffrey Hall; (c) Earlson Robinson (brother of Lillian Boyce); and (d) Samuel Been (the ex-husband of Lillian Boyce).
Lillian Boyce also benefitted, Mitchell said.
He outlined a series of alleged manipulations of different parcels of land at North West Point into one high value parcel to ensure that Wex obtained the title to the land, as a result of which the TCI government was allegedly defrauded of millions of dollars that were said to have been diverted to Cabinet ministers and others.
According to Mitchell, four Belonger beneficiaries – Jeffrey Hall ($2,144,000); Samuel Been ($2,144,000); Quinton Hall ($1,355,000); and Earlson Robinson ($1,357,000) – offered to sell to Wex for around $7 million freehold title of land over which they did not have title – the freehold still belonged to the Crown.
Part of the Crown's case on this point is that the normal Belonger discount of up to 50 percent of the open market value of the land should not have been applied because there was a known non-Belonger purchaser behind it.
“We submit that, unknown to the TCI [government], the ministers had knowledge that this was going straight on to a developer. They could have, and should have made sure that the land was sold straight to Wex and that the government got the $7 million that the land was valued at. There shouldn't have been an intervention of a Belonger discount. If a Belonger, acting honestly – and this is all about issues of honesty and integrity – buys land and sells it at a profit, then the Belonger discount will be clawed back by government,” Mitchell said.
“…everyone involved knew that Wex would be taking title to the land on the day of completion, they recognised that there was the opportunity of a $3 million profit,” he pointed out.
Mitchell submitted that the alleged manipulation of the titles and the way that the transaction was structured was done to deceive the land registry, the governor, and therefore the Crown.
On April 18, 2006, Wex’s development company made a payment of $6.8 million to his attorneys, representing the balance of the $7 million purchase price for the land, some $200,000 having been paid the previous year, of which $120,000 had been paid directly to Jeffrey Hall by cheques signed by co-defendant Melbourne Wilson, the local attorney representing Hall.
On May 5, 2006, the freehold of the North West Point land was transferred by the TCI government for $1,367,000, representing a purchase price of $2,735,000 to which the Belonger discount of 50 percent had been applied. $133,393.50 was paid by way of stamp duty.
The following payments were also made:
a. $500,000 to Timothy Smith, manager of Turks and Caicos Realty, which later became TC Sotheby’s International, a firm of realtors based in Providenciales;
b. $1 million to Samuel Been;
c. $1 million to Earlson Robinson; and
d. $1 million to a Stanfield Greene client account, which the Crown say was for the benefit of Quinton Hall.
On May 15, 2006, $70,000 was paid to Melbourne Wilson, apparently representing his billing in respect of the North West Point transaction.
On May 23, 2006, $1,810,537 was paid to Alliance Realty, a local company of which Wilson was a director and secretary, and the following day a payment of $100,000 was paid from Alliance to an account at Belize Bank held in the name of Michael Misick.
“The Crown's case is that there can be no logical honest reason why [Misick] would get this sum from the proceeds of sale of the land at [North West Point] which had been received, the Crown say, unlawfully by Alliance. We then say that [Misick] used that money for, among other things, to reduce his credit card debt and to make payments for and on behalf of other people,” Mitchell said.
“What happened to the rest of the money?” he asked, going on to detail payments that included:
• $10,000 paid to Wilson by cheque;
• $200,000 paid to Rhynie Campbell, an associate of Jeffrey Hall;
• $200,010.20 paid to Meridian Trust by cheque delivered by Wilson. Meridian were creditors of Jeffrey Hall. The Crown submits that this money was paid to reduce Hall's indebtedness.
• $30,000 paid to an account controlled by Middle Caicos Progressive National Party (PNP). Hall was the representative for Middle Caicos.
Mitchell then moved on to Lillian Boyce, whose brother is Earlson Robinson, one of the four Belongers involved in the North West Point land transaction.
A cheque was made payable to Robinson in the sum of $1 million. The Crown's case is that no cheque was deposited into his account in that sum, but on May 19, 2006, a deposit of $1 million was made to a First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB) account in the name of Lillian Boyce. The Crown's case is that this is the million that was made payable to Robinson.
After the monies were credited to her account, Boyce paid $20,000 to Robinson, which is all that can be traced to him from the monies from the sale of land at North West Point, and $100,000 was paid to a Belize Bank account held in the name of Michael Misick.
According to Mitchell, this represented a further cut from the sale of the land to Wex for the benefit of Misick.
Boyce claimed in an interview that over $300,000 was spent on repairs to her mother's house following a house fire. Her mother's house did get burnt, but the fire, Mitchell submitted, did not cause the damage that she suggests. Some money was spent on building materials but again nothing like $300,000, he asserted.
During the interview she admitted that, as a minister there was an obligation to tell the truth and not mislead Cabinet, further there was a ministerial duty not to cause loss or injury to the TCI economy and revenue. She was asked to explain her role in Cabinet; she stated business was pre-determined between the governor, relevant minister and the attorney general; she stated that Cabinet was not the place to raise objections or concerns on matters she disagreed with and, in essence, she stated Cabinet was a ceremonial process.
In respect of the $1,000,000 cheque that she received, Boyce stated that she was holding the money on behalf of Robinson and that as he had no immediate plans for it she asked him if she could borrow $600,000 to secure a loan to set up a car hire business.
She claimed the remainder was set aside for Robinson's use but, following a fire at their mother's house, he used in the region of $300,000 to renovate the house but she was unable to quantify this.
She claimed that, whatever any benefit was that she had gained, it was always her intention to pay Robinson back the full amount.
In respect of the monies paid to Misick, Boyce claimed that he contacted her and asked to borrow funds from the monies Robinson had received. She claimed Misick contacted her several times and she finally contacted Robinson, who agreed to lend Misick $100,000. Boyce claimed it was a legitimate loan that he needed and she was shocked to find in the commission of inquiry that he had monies and was not living off his salary like herself and other ministers.
In a pre-prepared statement Boyce stated that “in response to my arrest I wish to clearly and categorically confirm for the purpose of this interview that I never knowingly acted illegally”, she goes on to continue to deny any wrongdoing and maintains her innocence.
In relation to Quinton Hall, Mitchell said that, on February 22, 2006, an account was opened at TCI Bank in the name of Stanfield Greene Attorneys at Law. The account was to act as a client account for the law firm but the Crown's case is that almost all account activity was to administer the proceeds of the Northwest Point land deal. The sole signatory on the account was co-defendant Clayton Greene.
On May 19, 2006, a cheque for $1 million was deposited in this account representing, the Crown says, the payment to Quinton Hall, the brother of co-defendant Floyd Hall, the former deputy premier.
The Crown's case is that this payment was intended for the benefit of Floyd Hall. Quinton Hall benefitted in the sum of $95,000. This sum was comprised of two payments for $20,000; one for $5,000; and another for $50,000.
The remaining funds were disbursed, including the following payments:
• On May 23, 2006, $150,000 was paid to an unknown beneficiary and on May 24, 2006, the same amount was deposited into a British Caribbean Bank account in the name of Michael Misick. “We submit that there is an inference to be drawn given the proximity of time and the relationships between the parties, that these are the same funds,” Mitchell said;
• $15,500 was paid to Clayton Greene;
• $15,000 was paid to Floyd Hall;
• $10,000 was sent to the PNP account;
• $150,000 was paid to Johnston International, the contractors for a building called Harbour House on Grand Turk; a property owned by Whale Watchers, a Clayton Greene incorporated entity in which Floyd Hall declared that he held a 30% interest;
• $200,000 was paid to Harold Charles, about whom, Mitchell said, you will hear more in due course;
• $150,000 was paid to the PNP account;
• $300,000 was credited to a Stanfield Greene client account related to Lisa Hall, a co-defendant and Floyd Hall’s wife.
Clayton Greene was interviewed in particular about the payment of $150,000 to Johnson International. He stated that the payment was for work they did on Harbour House, in which Earl Hall (the name that Quinton Hall recognises that he was known by) had an interest and that the $150,000 was for Quinton Hall's benefit, although it involved Whale Watchers. Quinton Hall, so Clayton Greene claimed, had an interest in Whale Watchers.
The full text of the sixth day’s opening statement on behalf of the Crown may be found here: http://tci-sit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/25-Jan-2016.pdf