Yesterday the biggest news to rock our small island was the slap of criminal charges on one of our youngest and most promising politicians – former Energy State Minister – and current Member of Parliament, Kern Spencer. Kern at age 33 was slapped with 7 charges:
- Three counts of conspiracy to defraud:
- Breach of Section 14 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which addresses the role of government officials.
- Money laundering offences: concealing and disguising criminal property (US$37, 836.65); transferring criminal property from Jamaica (US64, 576.50); engaging in a transaction with criminal property.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner reports, charged along with Spencer are Rodney Chin and Coleen Wright. Chin, a close associate of Spencer is facing two counts of conspiracy to defraud and two counts of breaches of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Wright, Spencer’s personal assistant, is also faced with 7 charges; two counts of conspiracy to defraud, one for breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act, and four money-laundering offences.
The charges slapped on the former State Minister, are as a result of the gross mismanagement that was discovered after a project involving the distribution of 4 million Free Cuban light bulbs resulted in $276 million in expenditure. The alert was made by the new energy minister Clive Mullings.
Now, what are the implications for these charges? And why am I so interested in this situation? Well, firstly, if convicted Kern could face up to 5 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. This is interesting because it’s very rare that a Jamaican politician is held accountable for any of his atrocities. And it is arguable that had the PNP remained in power (they lost the general election after 18 years in power in September 2007); this gross mismanagement and now criminal involvement would never have come to light. So we are now forced to wonder, how many of these acts of blatant theft and gross mismanagement of funds have gone undiscovered? The truth is that we may never know!
This is interesting news to the Inmate Diaries blog because there is the general perception in Jamaica that the only persons in prison are those born and bred in poverty, lacking in education, social graces and whatever other tools necessary to put them on the plane to meaningful and purposeful activities. This is not so! Jamaican prisons, like any other prisons, have inmates from all differing backgrounds – individuals born in affluence and those in poverty. Therefore, this dispels the myth that only poor people commit crimes.
This is the issues that S.E.T Inmate Diaries would like to address. In telling the inmate’s stories, we hope to get a better understanding of what are the motivating factors behind crime. What is it that compels two completely different individuals from two starkly different backgrounds to commit an identical crime? (more…)