Schuetz banned from discussing work at BCGC

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  • Richard Schuetz, former executive director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission (File photograph)

    Richard Schuetz, former executive director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission (File photograph)

The former executive director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission was barred yesterday by a court from any discussion of his time in charge of the regulatory body.

Lawyers acting for the BCGC won a temporary order from Chief Justice Ian Kawaley in Supreme Court against Richard Schuetz after a private hearing in chambers.

The injunction forbids Mr Schuetz from any disclosure “whether directly or indirectly, and/or to further use the confidential information that is either in his custody, or care or possession or control or he has access to, or at all”.

The judgment quoted Mr Schuetz’s 2015 employment agreement.

The injunction added that Mr Schuetz could not “whether directly or indirectly, make publish or otherwise communicate any disparaging or derogatory statements, whether in writing or otherwise, concerning the commission or any person to whom powers and duties have been delegated by the commission or government bodies, departments or ministries with which the commission works”.

The injunction also ordered Mr Schuetz to “make full disclosure” of any confidential information “belonging to his former employers” obtained during his time at the BCGC, and to return it to the organisation.

The injunction came after the BCGC launched a civil action against Mr Schuetz, who quit his post last July and left the island in December to return to the United States.

An application by The Royal Gazette to attend the hearing yesterday was denied by Mr Justice Kawaley.

The Chief Justice said the evidence presented to the court indicated there was sensitive material involved and to hold the hearing in public could prejudice the plaintiff’s case.

Mr Schuetz, who was not represented in court, can apply to Supreme Court to “vary or discharge this order”.

Yesterday’s chambers hearing at the Supreme Court was for the judge to hear an “ex-parte application”, which usually involves a request for a temporary order by the plaintiff, often in the absence of the respondent’s counsel.

The civil case and the names of the parties involved were listed on a court schedule issued on Tuesday afternoon. But an amended court schedule released yesterday morning had the names of the parties removed.

Mr Schuetz has been an outspoken figure in Bermuda’s emerging casino industry.

He recommended that the former One Bermuda Alliance government ditch an agreement it entered into to give local company MM&I Holdings a lucrative contract for a cashless gaming system.

Mr Schuetz criticised a forum held by the Progressive Labour Party on gaming last year when in Opposition, featuring MM&I’s American business partner, Banyan Gaming.

He also spoke out against an amendment to gaming legislation to bring the commission under ministerial control.

Mr Schuetz suggested in his resignation letter that Bermuda should “seriously consider” ditching gaming altogether — or risk its reputation as a clean financial jurisdiction.

He wrote: “My primary reason for resigning is that I have lost confidence that the Government of Bermuda and its legal system can provide the necessary protections to offer well-regulated casino gaming on the island.

“I sincerely believe that this island will prove incapable of keeping people with questionable backgrounds and behaviours away from the industry.”

Mr Schuetz added: “The Bermuda I have come to know has indicated a lack of respect in making a reasonable effort to adhere to generally accepted international standards for anti- money-laundering activities within its existing betting products, in particular the betting shops.”

Lawyer Timothy Marshall represented The Royal Gazette at the Supreme Court yesterday.

He said: “We made the arguments that the public should have access to this matter, which is of considerable public interest.

“The Chief Justice said he had considered the material filed and was satisfied that there was a prima facie case to have an ex-parte hearing in the absence of the public.

“He disagreed with our argument that the process of whether a hearing is going to be public or private should be held in open court. He determined that that is not the correct manner in which he determines these types of applications.”

Jordan Knight, a lawyer at MJM law firm, also spoke during the proceedings.

He said he was not there to represent anyone, but had obtained a copy of the writ filed by the commission from the court.

Mr Knight said that any member of the public could do the same and that there could be no justification for holding the hearing in private.

A court official said: “The hearing is a private hearing not open to the public. The plaintiff has requested a private hearing and the Chief Justice has acceded to this request. The grounds on which he has made this decision are themselves confidential and cannot be disclosed at this time.”

Mr Justice Kawaley has said in the past that “the basic legal premise is that the public have a right of access to any hearing unless there is a good reason to exclude them. The fact that it’s in chambers doesn’t limit that access”.

The publicly funded commission was represented yesterday by Richard Horseman of law firm Wakefield Quin.

The gaming commission has advertised for a replacement for Mr Schuetz as executive director.

Neither the BCGC nor Mr Schuetz replied to a request for comment on the lawsuit by press time.

To view the Chief Justice’s Notice of an Order for an Injunction, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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