DPP ruled out Brown interview
THE police inquiry into allegations that Dr. Brown was involved in corrupt practices at the Bermuda Housing Corporation were finally brought to a halt in 2004 after then-Acting DPP Kulandra Ratneser ruled that the Premier had not broken the law. But documents seen by the Mid-Ocean News reveal that the island’s top prosecutor also suggested the possibility that civil charges could be brought against Dr. Brown over his dealings with the BHC.
In an April, 2004 letter to then-Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith, Mr. Ratneser said he could see “no criminal offence disclosed or suspected” in connection to Dr. Brown and as a result police had “no authority in law to ask Dr. Brown to answer any questions at this stage”.
Detectives were first informed of Dr. Brown’s potential involvement after interviewing former BHC chairman Raymonde Dill and Kevin Bean Walls, a business partner of construction boss Zane DeSilva in the early days of the inquiry.
According to a summary of initial interviews with Mr. Dill, compiled by lead investigator Detective Inspector Robin Sherwood and sent to then Chief of Police Jonathan Smith in August 2002, Mr. Dill alleged he was bullied into buying the Premier’s former home in Flatts, ‘Hill Crest’ on a number of occasions.
The top secret document outlining the case, reads: “Dill explained that he was approached by Dale Young of the Property Group—- she is the wife of Paul Young who is employed by BHC as a painter — she showed Dill a house on North Shore Road, Flatts, which belonged to Dr. E. Brown, the Minister of Transport. She was trying to have BHC purchase the property for inclusion in their housing stock. The price was $450,000.
“Dill declined to purchase the property as it was too expensive and the location was not suitable. The house was on a very busy road and had no parking. This was far from suitable for BHC clients, who often have children and therefore needed parking as well as safe areas for children to play etc.
“Dill received several further calls from Dale Young trying to get Dill to ‘move’ on purchasing the property. He was then contacted by Dr. Brown who invited him to lunch at the Newstead Hotel. At the conclusion of lunch Dr. Brown pushed a signed purchase agreement across the table to Dill - which referred to the North Shore Road property. He still refused to sign but left with the purchase agreement.
“Minister Bascome contacted Dill and they met in the Senate Chamber. Present was Dr. Brown, Bascome, Dill and a BHC architect. Again it was explained that the price being asked was well above the market value and that it was not suitable or viable for BHC housing stock.
“Minister Bascome telephoned and told Dill that the property was now vacant and that it should be put in the BHC Private Sector Programme. Dill complied and arranged for $100,000 worth of renovations to be carried. The normal practice being that the monies are paid back to the BHC through the rental of the property. Dr. Brown did not sign or return the agreement.
“After the renovations were completed — Dale Young contacted Dill and told him that the property was being repossessed by the bank. So as not to lose the funds the BHC had put in the property, Dill felt ‘forced’ to purchase the property for $500,000.”
In a December 2003 memorandum to Commissioner Smith, Det. Insp Sherwood said: “I believe that whilst a great many irregularities with respect to this transaction exist, many of which leave more questions than answers, I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at the required criminal standard to raise a charge(s).
“However, I do believe that there are sufficient grounds to speak with Dr. Brown concerning the allegations under caution. He would obviously be entitled to take legal advice and to exercise all of his constitutional rights.”The letter adds: “I am satisfied that we have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence may have occurred and to invite Dr. brown for interview.In the event he declines such an invitation, we do not have sufficient grounds to arrest him.”
Det. Insp. Sherwood’s view was later confirmed by Mr. Ratneser who, in a letter to Police Commissioner Smith (pictured)<$f"FranklinGothic-DemiCond"><\p>dated April 29, 2004, Mr. Ratneser declared that there was no case to answer.
“ You have sought my advice as to whether Dr. Ewart Brown should have been given the opportunity to answer matters that have transpired during the course of the criminal investigation conducted by police into the affairs of the Bermuda Housing Corporation,” Mr. Ratneser wrote.
“The Summary of evidence relates to the purchase of a property known as ‘Hill Crest’ by the BHC. This property at the time was owned by Dr. Brown.
“At this time Raymonde Dill was the general manager of the BHC and was the person soley responsible for any decision relating to the purchase of property for and on behalf of BHC.
“Dr. Brown was desirous of selling ‘Hill Crest’ and had appointed a real estate agent to find a buyer. It was the real estate agent who negotiated the sale of the property to BHC at a price which it is now alleged is some $110,000 to $150,000 over fair market value. Dale Young, the real estate agent acting for Dr. Brown, believes that the sale was at a fair price.
“It is suggested by Raymonde Dill that he was ‘pressured’ by Dr. Brown and Minister Nelson Bascome and then by Dale Young.
“Having read the investigation file relating to Raymonde Dill’s activities as general manager of BHC, and having discussed the assessment of the investigators in the case, I have concluded that Raymonde Dill is not worthy of credit and cannot be presented to a court as a credible witness. It is alleged that he committed offences of stealing money from BHC.
“Mr. Raymond Dill alleges that he entered into this purchase because he was told by Dale Young that the mortgage on the property was about to be called up. This has not only been denied by Dale Young, but investigations have revealed that there was no mortgage over the property.
“In the course of the interview he suggests that he would only have paid up to $350,000. He asserts that the chairman of BHC knew of this deal. However, I do recall some earlier instructions that the payment was made in cheques made up of small amounts to avoid the need to obtain the approval of BHC.
“If that is the case then clearly Raymonde Dill was hiding the true facts of the purchase from the BHC Board. But that does not advance the case against Dr. Brown. While there is evidence to suggest that Raymonde Dill has acted contrary to the interests of the BHC, I cannot see any evidence to suggest that Dr. Brown has done anything improper. He certainly got a good price for his property. That by itself does not make it criminal.
“Before a person can be questioned by the police there must be reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has or may have been committed.
“On the evidence placed before me I see no criminal offence disclosed or suspected. Neither have the police been able to identify any suspected criminal offence. That being the case, the police have no authority in law to ask Dr. Brown to answer any questions at this stage and I advise accordingly.
“There is some indication that Dr. Brown has not paid for work done to one or more of his properties. Perhaps BHC should seek legal advice as to whether or not civil proceedings should be instituted for the recovery of the monies due to BHC.”
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