Money laundering charges against Reckley, others reinstated
A magistrate was yesterday ordered to continue money laundering charges against former Urban Renewal Deputy Director Michelle Reckley and four others.
Reckley is accused of defrauding the government of $1,255,637.83 through the Urban Renewal Small Homes Repair program in Grand Bahama, and laundering the money with the assistance of Kylon Vincent, 26, Stefanie Collie, 28, Christopher Symonette, 57, and James Wildgoose.
When the defendants appeared before Magistrate Ambrose Armbrister on March 29 for a fixture hearing, he, on his own motion, dismissed the money laundering charges as an abuse of the court’s process because they were charged under the repealed Proceeds of Crime Act and the statute of limitations had passed.
The crimes allegedly occurred between 2016 and 2017 but the defendants were not charged until February 2019.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Garvin Gaskin appealed the decision on the grounds that the magistrate had made errors in law and had asked that the matter be sent to another magistrate for trial.
Although the Court of Appeal agreed that Armbrister’s decision was erroneous, the panel of Sir Hartman Longley, and justices of appeal Stella Crane-Scott and Jon Isaacs, and did not remit the matter to another magistrate for a new trial.
The DPP argued that money laundering charges are indictable offenses that can be tried summarily, therefore the six-month statute of limitations did not apply.
Appeal Court President Sir Hartman Longley said, “That, to my mind, is a formidable argument. I, therefore, agree that the magistrate erred in holding the offenses are statue barred.”
As for the repeal point, the DPP said that the Interpretation and General Clauses Act allowed the old Proceeds of Crime Act to remain in force.
He said, “It seems to me, therefore, that what the section permits is the investigation, commencement, or institution of legal proceedings in respect of any offense found after any such investigation to have been committed against any written law so repealed. It is a time freezing device that keeps intact any possible criminal behavior for subsequent review, investigation, institution/commencement of prosecution found to have been committed against any written law so repealed, so as to ensure that no criminal would escape the dragnet of the law on the pernicious technicality that his or her violation is of a law that has, since the commission of the illegal act, been repealed.
“I would, therefore, hold that the magistrate did indeed have the jurisdiction to hear the charges that were not statute barred.”