Court rules against former St Vincent PM

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By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The commission of inquiry into the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard project in St Vincent and the Grenadines can now continue after the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal ruled that its proceedings were not biased, as claimed by former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell.

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Former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell

The commission, which was set up to determine who, if anyone, is culpable for the disappearance of monies allocated to building the marina, went on a two-year hiatus after Mitchell brought a legal challenge objecting to its proceedings, which he said were biasd.

Anthony Astaphan, a lawyer for the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the case, speaking on the ruling on Thursday, said “one of the grounds of bias on which [Mitchell] relied was the … summons letter issued by the commissioner and the interim report that the commissioner had sent to the Director of Public Prosecution”.

Astaphan said that the Court of Appeal agreed with the government that the summons letter “constituted no bias whatsoever but that there was an issue to be tried as to whether or not the report constituted a bias and he was sent back to the High Court for trial.”

The trial was completed in two days and the court dismissed the claim form and the application and discharged the injunction, Astaphan said.

“[This] means that the commission of inquiry into Ottley Hall can continue and that James Mitchell can now be summons again to participate in the commission of inquiry,” Astaphan further said.

The marina, which was build in 1993 when Mitchell’s New Democratic Party was in office, was subsequently valued at between EC$3.5 million and EC$7 million but left the nation with a debt of EC$200 million.

Mitchell, who had sole ministerial oversight for the project, has denied any wrongdoing and said last year, “my conscience is as clear as the waters flowing down the mountainside to Majorca” – a major potable water intake in St Vincent.

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