Castries South MP Ernest Hilaire, asserting that he was elected by “my good people of Castries South”, has declared that like the root of a tree, he will not be moved.
Hilaire made the statement to a news conference last week.
It came in response to reports of an investigation into the registration of a vehicle he bought in England and ‘defamatory’ Facebook posts claiming that he was the subject of a money laundering and tax evasion probe by the UK and the United States.
The MP’s statement to the press conference on June 27, 2019 on the issue is reproduced below:
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press and thank you for being here.
Prior to the last Sitting of Parliament during an interview, I stated, among other things, that based on what has transpired thus far, the next General Elections was likely to be the nastiest on record. I supported my fear and concern by listing several tactics which have since 6 June 2016, been employed by the government and ruling party operatives. I have given clear examples, both in Parliament at Press Conferences and on talk shows, indicating I was a target of the government and UWP. So intense has been their focus on me, I see myself as a “marked man”.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press when I entered politics I did so fully cognizant of the reality that it would be a lifechanging decision as even prior to me becoming a candidate, the UWP had set about attempting to ruin my reputation.
These attacks did not deter me for not only was truth on my side but equally importantly, it had always been my dream to serve my country. I would not, therefore, be deterred by a group which only intent was to abuse and benefit from political power.
Both prior to and during the election campaign, I was the target of the most insidious and defamatory attacks by Allen Chastanet’s UWP and its social media arms. In all of that time I have remained undaunted and unflinching. If anything, their attacks have served only to strengthen my resolve and it is obvious that my representation of my people is something which the ruling party cannot deal with. I say today, that they cannot break me and I solemnly pledge to my people of Castries South and the people of the country, in the end we will prevail.
Mid last week reports reached me that three (3) investigators from the DPP’s office had presented themselves at the Ministry of Transport seeking documents related to the registration of my motor vehicle which I had purchased in England. I was also informed that they wanted to question any staff member who may have assisted in the registration process.
The following day, I was also advised that police officers, armed with a search warrant, had visited the office of the shipper who had cleared the vehicle and my personal effects from England into Saint Lucia, after I had demitted office as High Commissioner.
Mere hours later, one of the UWP’s social media attack proxies, posted on Facebook a defamatory article claiming that I was the subject of an investigation by the United Kingdom and the United States of America for money laundering and tax evasion. They further claimed that I had already been “hauled in for questioning on numerous occasions” during which time I was accompanied by my solicitor, Thaddeus Antoine.
I wish to vehemently state that I have never been interviewed or questioned by any US or UK authorities or that of any foreign state. I have worked in many countries and have never had any issues with any authorities. I have paid my taxes and collected my refunds when owed to me. My last employment engagement was as High Commissioner in London where I was conferred with diplomatic privileges and immunity and was not required to pay taxes.
Last year, I was invited by the Customs Department, which had been directed to investigate an alleged stolen state asset which was claimed to be my vehicle. That allegation was made by Guy Mayers, former Chairman of the UWP and now High Commissioner in the UK. Customs indicated their only issue was with the payment of VAT on the vehicle. The payment of VAT is the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs as I was a returning diplomat.
You may recall, that in April 2018, I presented a detailed statement to you, the media on this matter. I also provided copies of documents including my bank statements.
Among those documents, was a memo from the Director of Finance which stated that the Department of Finance has NO record of this asset having been purchased by the state. Clearly acknowledging the vehicle does not belong to the Government of Saint Lucia.
Further, there were documents provided by the same Guy Mayers which showed that the ORIGINAL supplier’s quotation was not in the name of the High Commission, and he also provided documents which showed that the payment was not made by the High Commission. In the very circumstances presented by Mayers alone, how can it be said by any sane human being, except for mischief and embarrassment, that the vehicle belongs to the State?
To clear this issue, the officer in the High Commission who handled all the transactions on my behalf wrote to the Comptroller of Customs to explain that he undertook all the transactions on my behalf. Further, I have the ultimate proof, my bank statements that I provided the money to purchase the vehicle.
Some of these documents have been filed with the Courts in relation to the defamation case which I have filed against the PM. Incidentally, his Appeal against the decision of the High Court Judge will be heard over the next few days.
I am told that one Acting Comptroller of Customs has been removed for not acting on a directive to seize my vehicle. Obviously, the present is also not co-operating.
So someone has decided to step up the political persecution and victimization by abusing the power of their office. It now involves police investigators in the Office of the DPP. I am not sure what was said to the Senior Magistrate, but a search warrant was obtained and executed by the police on the premises of the Broker for documents which Customs already had in their possession.
Contrary to the garbage being spewed by United Pac, the document clearly shows the so-called investigation is local in nature and scope. It clearly states the police are investigating what they say is “obtaining property by deception”, It would seem to me that the state is trying to obtain my property by deception and even before inviting me for further clarification, has once again informed their propaganda machines that I am being investigated.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, even in war, there are boundaries but the Allen Chastanet United Workers Party know no such limits. As a government they have continuously shown scant regard for our Constitution, our laws and our customs. They have shown that they are prepared to do anything to keep office. In that regard they are willing to destroy anyone who they believe stands in their way. We have seen and heard of the Allen Chastanet UWP Government abusing authority by directing the police to persecute the people of Saint Lucia. Only Last year the police was used to arrest a school girl who a Minister took advantage of while she was an intern at his office during summer vacation, now it is me, next time it may just be you.
Let it be clear that in my quest to assist the SLP in returning Saint Lucia to proper governance and zero tolerance of corruption, I will not be moved. I will not be intimidated by groups like United Pac, or by the UWP or the Government of Saint Lucia led by Allen Chastanet. I will continue to stand up for what is just and right and I know, by God’s grace, I will prevail. They will bring out the best in me.
But this has gone on for too long. It is time for the Government to understand that they cannot proceed with wanton disregard for laws, the reputation of citizens, more so elected officials they do not like. That they cannot abuse the power which their office bestowed upon them. That they cannot use the Police and Customs as a political arm of the UWP. They will have to face the Courts and account for their behavior. I have asked my lawyers to take all necessary legal action against persons, groups and authorities who seek to abuse authority to simply attempt to tarnish and embarrass me. Because today is me, tomorrow is you.
I was elected by my good people of Castries South and like the root of a tree, I shall not be moved.