January 31, 2023

SIPT lead lawyer Andrew Mitchell strongly criticses Caribbean legal process

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Unknown-1By Hayden Boyce, Editor-in-Chief • Turks & Caicos Sun

In what many regard as a blatant exhibition of double standards and hypocrisy, the leading prosecutor for the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT), Queen’s Counsel Andrew Mitchell, who dislikes when the Turks and Caicos Islands media criticizes him or his colleagues including Special Prosecutor Helen Garlick, is on record as strongly criticising a respected legal system in the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

Mitchell, who has been paid in excess of US$1million for the SIPT trials in Turks and Caicos Islands and is paid around US$2000 per day, is one of the defence lawyers for Jack Warner, the disgraced former deputy prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who was accused of wrong-doing in a Commission of Inquiry that was conducted by Sir David Simmons, a former Barbados Chief Justice who is currently chairman of the Turks and Caicos Islands Integrity Commission.

The report of CONCACAF’s Integrity Committee found that Andrew Mitchell’s client Jack Warner did not disclose to CONCACAF or FIFA that a building called Centre of Excellence was built on land owned by his companies.

The audit said Warner had “deceived persons and organisations” into believing the $26 million facility was CONCACAF’s and not his. He was also accused of misappropriating at least $15 million by compensating himself with CONCACAF funds without authorisation after his last contract expired in July 1998.

Investigations by the Turks and Caicos SUN revealed that Warner enlisted three legal luminaries, including Andrew Mitchell, to examine the Commission of Inquiry report and he is suing Sir David Simmons who wrote the report.

Warner’s lawyers, including Andrew Mitchell, came to conclusions that the Sir David Simmons’ Commission of Inquiry report was flawed, could not have been independent and should not have been released publicly before offering the “accused” the possibility to comment.

Ironically, Andrew Mitchell is prosecuting several persons in the Turks and Caicos Islands based on the findings of a Commission of Inquiry Report conducted by Sir Robin Auld, which contained some very damaging statements and criticisms about many politicians, developers and private individuals.

Commenting on the Trinidad Commission of Inquiry report which implicates his client, the same Andrew Mitchell, QC, who directly challenges journalists in the Turks and Caicos Islands when they write truthful but critical reports about SIPT, said: “To have moved straight to conclusions based on apparent legal ingredients of criminal conduct smacks of the committee being prosecutor, judge and jury without defence representation, there used to be a phrase applied to such processes: Kangaroo Court.”

Mitchell added: “This (Commission of Inquiry) report is nothing but a series of unproven issues, which…taken together, have caused the right thinking person, in the maxi taxi, to conclude that all is not as clear as the Committee is suggesting and that in reality there is an equally compelling case the other way.”

The opinions of Mitchell and the other defence lawyers for Warner, question the processes that were undertaken by the Integrity Committee in coming to their damning conclusions as “prosecutor, judge and jury “.

Another one of Warner’s lawyers, retired Justice of Appeal Zainool Hosein in his opinion said that there was “significant concern” about the “true character” of the investigating committee even though it was formed by men of “high distinction and integrity who have held high judicial office in their countries”.

“But the Forum constituted by the triumvirate was sponsored and selected by CONCACAF by whom they were remunerated to investigate, impartially adjudicate and make conclusions in respect of issues and matters allegedly affecting CONCACAF,” Hosein added.

“The committee, in full recognition that it had no power to summon or require attendance of anyone before it, misdirected itself in proceeding informally to make findings of criminal nature in contravention of the presumption of innocence of Mr. Warner, his right not to self-incriminate before a forum purporting to act as a court of law and placing reliance in totality on unsworn information.”

Another member of the Andrew Mitchell defence team, Bertram Commissiong, QC, is similarly, if not more critical.

He said: “The findings of the report are questionable, unreliable and arrived at by methods foreign to and at odds with established principles of procedural fairness and natural justice.” Commissiong is strongly supportive of Warner in his written opinion, saying: “Indeed, the evidence and allegations against Jack Warner are no more serious than those against other leading officials in FIFA and CONCACAF,” he says, and taking it a step further saying Warner had been “unfairly targeted due to his allegiance to a rival candidate to the incumbent in that (FIFA presidential) election.” He said that the CONCACAF report “appears to be shot through with malice and reeks of vindictive politicking”.

Warner, the former deputy prime minister of Trinidad, has continually maintained that he is the victim of a witch-hunt, though the circumstantial evidence has never stacked up in his favour.

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