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Opposition calls for answers on DeSilva court deal claims

Rena Lalgie, Governor of Bermuda

The Governor has been asked by the Opposition to look into a claim that criminal charges against a government MP were dropped after he agreed to discontinue a lawsuit against the police.

Jarion Richardson, the Leader of the Opposition, and former premier Michael Dunkley met Rena Lalgie on Wednesday to discuss the alleged deal.

But the Governor has stonewalled questions from The Royal Gazette about whether she intends to investigate the matter.

The claim that there may have been a “quid pro quo”, in which money-laundering charges were dropped against former Cabinet minister Zane DeSilva, was made this month by his lawyer, Jerome Lynch KC.

The criminal charges, denied by Mr DeSilva, were connected to a taxpayer-funded loan of $800,000 that was given by the Government to American music promoter Anthony Blakey in April 2018 and has not been paid back.

Mr Lynch told the Gazette: “The quid pro quo, if there is one, is that we have dropped significant JR [judicial review] proceedings against the BPS [Bermuda Police Service].”

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, denied that. She said there was “no consideration of that proceeding in my decision to discontinue the public prosecution of Mr DeSilva”.

Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “We have been very concerned about this matter.

“When the DPP dropped the charges and the decision was made public, I was aghast.

“While it is the DPP’s prerogative to drop a charge, doing so this late in a case, with countless hours of investigation and little explanation as to why, raises questions.”

He added: “As a politician I have been deliberate in not interfering in the justice system but in this public case, with accountability and transparency so critical for elected and public officials, dropping the charges without any explanation raises many eyebrows.”

The Opposition MP said Mr Lynch’s comment meant the “whole matter requires a close look”.

Mr Dunkley asked: “What led to the decision to drop charges? Is there a quid pro quo? If so, what is it?”

He would not reveal Ms Lalgie’s response to the request from him and Mr Richardson for the matter to be investigated.

A Government House spokesman said last night: “The Governor is not in the habit of commenting on private discussions and has no role to play in prosecution decisions, which are for the DPP.”

Mr Blakey, whose Savvy Entertainment company borrowed the $800,000 to open a recording studio in Dockyard, was charged in absentia at a court hearing last October with obtaining a money transfer by deception.

He has yet to return to Bermuda from the United States to face trial but Ms Clarke said this month that the extradition process had “begun and is ongoing”.

Mr Dunkley asked: “Why has Mr Blakey not been extradited to Bermuda after all this time?

“It appears he has been questioned in the US, so why so long to have him extradited?

“The Government made a very suspect loan, it appears without adequate or proper vetting, and, years on, the money is still outstanding.

“When will taxpayer money of over $800,000 be repaid?”

He claimed: “It appears that the PLP government is not serious about securing the return of this ill-founded loan.

“The blame lies squarely at the feet of the Premier and colleagues involved in this sham.”

Mr Dunkley said the decision to drop the charges had the “potential to put Bermuda in a very poor position” in terms of its global reputation and its score in future assessments of its anti-money-laundering standards.

He suggested the case prompted the need for stricter legislation on good governance and rigorous enforcement of the requirement for MPs to declare all their financial interests.

He said: “Politicians, as people who make the laws, should lead by example with accountability and transparency.

“In this regard, the Register of Interests for parliamentarians needs to be strictly enforced and updated to include appropriate levels of transparency.

“In addition, a review of laws that cover governance, such as the Good Governance Act, require updating.”

David Burt, the Premier, apologised in September 2020 for overseeing the Savvy loan as finance minister.

He did not respond to a request for comment for this article but a government spokeswoman claimed the Government had “led the effort through the proper authorities to effect proceedings on Blakey and has shepherded this through the civil courts”.

She said: “As is well documented, the Government reported the matter to the Bermuda Police Service and initiated the civil claim to recoup the funds.

“As reported in February 2023, the DPP and BPS have confirmed that extradition proceeding is under way.”

The Gazette reported in October 2020 and July 2022 that the Government had yet to launch civil court proceedings to get the loan money back. In January this year, it was reported that the Attorney-General had filed a petition to wind up Mr Blakey’s company, Savvy Entertainment Ltd.

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