Court OKs travel privileges for ex-Petrojam duo

The two former Petrojam bigwigs facing fraud charges in relation to alleged fictitious travel claims have been given the green light by the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court to fly without restrictions.

The accused, former general manager Floyd Grindley and former chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, however, had their $400,000 station bail increased to $5 million each with one or two sureties.

The men, who reside and work in the United States, had, through their lawyers, beseeched Chief Parish Judge Chester Crooks to use his discretion and not to ground them as part of their bail conditions because their jobs and families would suffer.

The lawyers had also emphasised that their clients had demonstrated that they were not a flight risk by voluntarily travelling to the island to be arrested and charged, after initiating contact with the police when they learnt late last year that they were persons of interest.

Consequently, Crooks, in offering them bail in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on Thursday, ordered that their travel documents be returned.

He, however, warned the accused men not to visit Petrojam or its affiliate offices, or contact any of the witnesses in the case.

The men are to return to court on May 14.

The defence lawyers made the application on Monday for the judge not to restrict their clients movements after the prosecution had expressed concerns that the men had been granted bail without any conditions and that they did not reside in the island.

The Crown had asked for reporting conditions as well as for the men to surrender their travel documents with a stop order in place.

Judge Crooks had ordered the men to surrender their travel documents but had asked them to return to court on Thursday for him to make a decision about their bail amount and additional conditions.

Attorney-at-law- Bert Samuels, who is representing Bahado-Singh and who spoke on behalf of both accused men, again urged the court to bypass the travel restrictions.

He said the prosecution had not presented any facts to indicate the necessity of restricting the accused men’s travel privileges.

At the same time, he said the case could not be tried in under a year based on the size of the file and the number of witnesses involved.

“Are we going to ask these gentlemen to remain away from their jobs when their conduct is exemplary?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the judge reiterated that it was not the intention of the court to impose any restriction on the men that would have them exposed to the coronavirus.

But Judge Crooks, after issuing instructions for the men’s travel documents to be returned, warned them that their movements could be restricted if and when the matter goes to trial to facilitate the smooth running of the proceedings.

Both men were arrested and charged in relation to fraudulent claims made at the state-owned oil refinery amounting to US$73,620 between December 2016 and May 2018.

Bahado-Singh allegedly submitted the claims for overseas travel which he did not attend, while Grindley is alleged to have aided and abetted the ex-chairman in the process used to make the fraudulent claims.

Bahado-Singh is charged with 12 counts of obtaining money by means of false pretence while Grindley is charged with eight counts of aiding and abetting obtaining money by means of false pretence.

Both Grindley and Bahado-Singh were axed in 2018 as a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal alleging irregularities, nepotism and cronyism engulfed Petrojam.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com