Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | October 14, 2009
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'Charge him!' - Contractor general reports evidence of corruption against Joseph Hibbert
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter


Christie

Government Member of Parliament (MP) Joseph Hibbert was in breach of government regulations and Ministry of Transport and Works staff orders when he accepted payments from bridge-building firm Mabey and Johnson, Contractor General Greg Christie has said in his special report to Parliament.

The report has recommended that Hibbert be charged for corruption, perjury and for breaching the Contractor General's Act.

Christie said Hibbert "was never authorised" to receive money from Mabey and Johnson.

"There is an over-abundance of prima facie evidence which is contained herein and, more particularly and importantly, in the sworn written statements that were furnished to the OCG by the relevant respondents and the UK-SFO, which would suggest that Mr Joseph Hibbert, MP, while, inter alia, actively holding the position of chief technical director in the Ministry of Transport and Works, did receive questionable illicit payments or bribes from Mabey and Johnson," Christie said.

The contractor general has noted that Hibbert has admitted to receiving the payments but said his explanations "on the face of all the evidence, are not credible".

However, Hibbert's attorney and fellow government parliamentarian, Ernest Smith, downplayed the seriousness of the issues raised by the contractor general.

"It is a collection of opinions. It has not changed my views in relation to the innocence of my client," Smith said.

"I have no doubt in my mind that if the learned director of public prosecutions should decide to prefer charges against Mr Joseph Hibbert, during the course of thattrial, a totally different picture is going to be presented," Smith added.

Christie was called in to investigate allegations of corruption relating to the award of contracts to Mabey and Johnson and to ascertain Hibbert's role.

Sasi-Kanth Mallela, investigative lawyer for Britain's Serious Fraud Office, had furnished the contractor general with documents which pointed to Hibbert receiving 69,000 - cash and cheque payments from 1989 to 2001 to ensure Mabey and Johnson receive government contracts.

Documents submitted to the contractor general by Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green said Hibbert received several payments from Mabey and Johnson between 1993 and 2003.

Mabey and Johnson has admitted in British court to bribing public officials in Jamaica and Ghana. Hibbert, who is the Jamaican official fingered, has admitted to receiving money from Mabey and Johnson but has said he did nothing criminal.

Out-of-pocket expenses


( L - R ) Hibbert, Smith

In his sworn statement to the contractor general, Hibbert said the monies were for "out-of-pocket expenses" to cover travel to the United Kingdom on official business for the Ministry of Transport and Works, and for expenses in Jamaica on behalf of Mabey and Johnson.

However, Christie's report has pointed to a response from Dr Alwin Hayles, permanent secretary in the ministry, who said "there was no evidence on file" that the ministry was aware that Mabey and Johnson paid for airfare, living and out-of-pocket expense for Hibbert.

The contractor general has said that the ministry was unaware that Hibbert was in receipt of any funds, payment, or benefits whatsoever, from Mabey and Johnson.

"The official ministry business trips which were undertaken by Mr Hibbert - in this case - three which are recorded on the ministry official files - except for one in respect of which the ministry's file does not show the payment of an airfare - were fully funded by the ministry in respect of all related expenses, inclusive of the provision of per diem expenses which were provided to Mr Hibbert," the contractor general concluded.

Despite the allegations, Smith said there is no additional pressure on Hibbert to either resign as Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew or to digest the report.

"Resign for what reason ... a report can look bad on paper, particularly when it consists of primary opinions and so on, but when that report is clinically dissected by cross-examination a totally different picture is going to be presented," Smith said.

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