Ruel Reid: A timeline of the corruption scandal

Former Minister of Education and Senator, Ruel Reid

Former Education Minister Ruel Reid, after months of living under the radar, was thrust back into the public eye on Wednesday, October 9 as his family home in St. Andrew was raided by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Reid, his wife Sharen (nee Thomas), as well as President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Fritz Pinnock are among the latest dominoes falling amid intensifying probes into allegations of corruption, nepotism, and misappropriation of funds within the Ministry of Education earlier this year, while still under his leadership.

The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), one of two public bodies being investigated in a corruption scandal (Photo contributed)

The disgraced former senator will be spending the night in jail, as criminal charges were officially laid against him, his wife and Professor Pinnock today.

But how did we get here?

BUZZ presents a timeline of major events, from the shocking revelations in Parliament, leading up to Reid’s fall from his seat of power:

March

The fireworks were set off by Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips on Monday, March 18, when he called for Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis to immediately investigate allegations of misuse of public funds by the Ministry of Education and CMU.

Leader of the Opposition Dr. Peter Phillips (Photo: JIS)

“The Opposition is aware and had been receiving information that politically connected persons have been employed as advisors, but who have not been operational or doing any work and collecting hefty salaries, which is a clear case of misuse of public funds,” Phillips said at the time in a statement.

The rumour mill was set alight as speculations rose around who exactly was caught the latest in a series of corruption scandals plaguing the Jamaica Labour Party-led (JLP) administration since the disastrous Petrojam saga in 2018 (which is far from resolved).

Two days later, on Wednesday, March 20, a release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) told the nation that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had spoken with Reid, demanded and received his resignation.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Photo: Don Waysome)

Reid, effectively fired from his post, also handed in his immediate resignation from the Senate to Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen – accepted post-haste.

July

The Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) raised further questions on the operations of the CMU on Wednesday, July 3.

After a meeting with officials of the education ministry and Professor Pinnock, it was revealed that a second household helper of the former minister was contracted to the institution to provide services, while still being paid by the ministry.

On Friday, July 5, CMU announced that Professor Pinnock had taken a voluntary, six-week leave of absence from his position as head of the institution amid the investigations.

President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Professor Fritz Pinnock (Photo: JIS)

Pinnock said his leave of absence would ensure “transparency and retain the integrity of the university”.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson confirmed that the embattled Reid, among others, is the subject of a criminal investigation on Friday, July 10.

Anderson, who was giving his first press briefing since becoming head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), declined to go into detail with regards to the scope and nature of the probe.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson (Photo contributed)

He indicated, however, that several police departments, including Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (C-TOC) and the Constabulary Financial Unit, were being tasked with unearthing the breaches and possible charges.

The Financial Investigation Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance is also part of the probe, he added.

The summer heat was high, and the noose tightened ever so slowly around Reid, the ministry he once led (now handed to Karl Samuda) and the CMU.

September-October

Two months later, on Friday, September 13, Pinnock requested a further extension of his leave of absence from the institution.

Less than a month later, on Wednesday, October 9, members of FID and C-TOC raided Reid’s home, as well as the house of Pinnock and two others implicated simultaneously, arresting the suspects.

Several items were seized including documents and electronic devices.