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Corruption inquiry at ‘critical phase’

A “large-scale fraud and corruption inquiry” is nearing completion, according to an affidavit from Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Wright.

In a statement dated last August, Mr Wright said the probe was in “a critical phase” and expressed concern it could be prejudiced by public pronouncements by Ewart Brown, the former Premier, in support of his colleague Mahesh Reddy.

Mr Wright's comments were revealed in a Supreme Court document explaining why Chief Justice Ian Kawaley had rejected the Commissioner of Police's attempt to prevent Dr Reddy pursuing a civil lawsuit over his arrest last May.

Mr Justice Kawaley stated that the Commissioner's strikeout summons was supported by an affidavit from Mr Wright which alleged Dr Reddy's arrest “formed part of a large-scale fraud and corruption inquiry commenced in 2012”.

Mr Wright had also argued that defending the judicial review application would involve disclosing sensitive material which could prejudice the investigation, the Chief Justice explained.

Mr Justice Kawaley said: “The investigation was described as ‘nearing completion and consequently in a critical phase'. It was further deposed that the real purpose of the judicial review application was to obtain sensitive information about the inquiry. As such it was an abuse of process and should be struck-out.”

According to the Chief Justice, in a second affidavit Mr Wright “expressed the concern, based on public pronouncements made by Dr Ewart Brown in support of the applicant's case, that a judicial review hearing would prejudice the ongoing investigation”.

However, Mr Justice Kawaley concluded there was no legal reason not to conduct a judicial review of the arrest while the investigation continues.

Dr Reddy was arrested last May by detectives understood to be investigating allegations that he ordered MRI and CT scans to be carried out at Bermuda Healthcare Services for his patients when they did not need them and then billed insurance companies for the procedures.

Dr Reddy is the chief medical officer at the clinic, owned by Dr Brown. In June, Dr Brown called a press conference claiming the arrest was “unjust and unwarranted” and was really an attempt to discredit himself. Dr Brown said he had been the subject of a long-running but “fruitless” police investigation aimed at uncovering bribery and political corruption.

In July, Dr Reddy launched proceedings against the Commissioner of Police, under the name Mahesh Sannapareddy, seeking a judicial review and damages for trespassing and unlawful arrest in relation to the raid.

In affidavits, the doctor described prior conduct by the police, which he regarded as harassment that prompted him to make a formal complaint to the local Police Complaints Authority in 2014.

He also complained that the search was not necessary as he would have co-operated with the Police in any event, claiming it caused him considerable personal and professional embarrassment.

In his reasons for his ruling dated February 6, Mr Justice Kawaley wrote: “The respondent was unable to identify a single authority for the proposition that it was so obviously inappropriate to seek judicial review in circumstances where a pending criminal investigation might be prejudiced that the present proceedings should be struck out, or the leave granted set aside, at the interlocutory stage.”

During oral arguments, Anesta Weekes, representing the Commissioner, raised concerns that materials filed during the proceedings would be released to the public.

Of that suggestion, the Chief Justice wrote: “It would clearly be an abuse of process to use judicial review proceedings for such collateral purposes. In the modern social media era, it is entirely realistic to fear that litigants with nothing to lose might commence civil proceedings containing scandalous allegations and widely disseminate court filings via the internet to gain some collateral advantage in another domain.

“This did not appear on the face of it to be such a case, however. The applicant in any event stands warned in this respect.

“More over, the risk of a future abuse of process cannot amount to grounds for denying a litigant access to the court when there is no compelling evidential basis to support a finding that an abuse of process has actually occurred.”

Mr Justice Kawaley found that there was no legal block preventing the courts from carrying out a judicial review of an arrest while the criminal investigation is still pending, and there was no evidential basis that the complaint was brought forward for a collateral purpose.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Wright (Photograph by Sharri Perkins)

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Published February 09, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2017 at 6:47 am)

Corruption inquiry at ‘critical phase’

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