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Woman charged with husband over failed hotel to sue the DPP

No case to answer: all charges were thrown out by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons against former Hamilton mayor Graeme Outerbridge, upper left, Ed Benevides, corporation secretary, top right, and Michael and Yasmin MacLean for offences related to a failed hotel development on Hamilton's Par-la-Ville car park (Photograph compilation by Akil Simmons)

A woman who had charges of theft and money laundering against her dismissed because of a “lack of evidence of wrongdoing” is to sue the Director of Public Prosecutions for malicious prosecution.

Yasmin MacLean said in an affidavit in support of a civil lawsuit filed this week that the accusations caused her “indescribable emotional distress and trauma” and that she ran up “significant legal expenses” to defend herself.

The mother-of-three said: “As a result of the defendant’s malicious prosecution and the embarrassment associated with having my name and picture plastered in the news media in relation to theft, I was and continue to be extremely distressed, shy, and uncomfortable doing ordinary tasks in public, such as grocery shopping and taking my children to various sporting and social events.”

Ms MacLean, 40, was charged in 2018, along with her husband, developer Michael MacLean, with stealing almost $14 million and use of the money knowing it was the proceeds of crime.

The alleged offences related to a failed hotel development – and Graeme Outerbridge, a former Mayor of Hamilton and Ed Benevides, the City Hall secretary, also faced charges.

Mr MacLean was president of Par-la-Ville Hotel & Residences.

The company was loaned $18 million by Mexico Infrastructure Finance to help it raise funds to build a multimillion-dollar hotel and apartments on the site of Hamilton’s Par la Ville car park.

Mr Outerbridge and Mr Benevides were accused of agreeing corruptly to obtain property for the benefit of the MacLeans by authoring the release of $15,449,858 from an escrow account at the Bank of New York Mellon.

Mr MacLean, Mr Outerbridge and Mr Benevides were also accused of dishonestly obtaining the money in the account, belonging to MIF.

The MacLeans were also charged with stealing $13,749,858 belonging to MIF and using stolen money knowing that it “in whole or in part directly or indirectly” was the proceeds of criminal conduct.

But Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons dismissed the charges against all four in January last year.

Mrs Justice Simmons said there was no “evidence placed before the court capable of supporting these charges” against Ms MacLean.

Mrs Justice Simmons said Ms MacLean was not named on the escrow agreement, nor on a credit agreement or a trade and share profit agreement and there was no evidence she was aware of the business arrangements.

She added: “There seems to have been a presumption on the part of the prosecution that because her name was on the account that became the senior escrow account, and because her husband was involved in the above named business arrangements, that she committed the offences with which she has been charged.”

Mrs Justice Simmons ruled: “No reasonable jury could make a finding of guilt in the circumstances. She has been dealt an injustice to have been kept in these proceedings.”

Ms MacLean’s lawsuit asked for unspecified damages and a declaration from the court that the DPP maliciously prosecuted her.

She said in her affidavit: “I always have and still … believe that I was subjected to the criminal charges contained in the indictment for political purposes and to put pressure on my husband, who was also charged on the indictment.”

Ms MacLean said she was a practising Jehovah’s Witness who witnessed to her fellow citizens about Jehovah’s word.

She added: “As a result of being falsely accused by the defendant, I became indescribably embarrassed and experienced tremendous discomfort attending my faith meetings.

“The defendant’s malicious prosecution of me caused my name to be plastered on countless print and online media regarding a significant theft, causing me serious embarrassment, emotional distress and depression.”

She said explaining the situation to her young children was “extremely emotionally distressing”.

Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he and Cindy Clarke, who takes over as DPP today, had no comment.

Civil proceedings brought by MIF against the Corporation of Hamilton and the Bank of New York Mellon continue in the New York Southern District Court.

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