0

Conviction Quash: Flowers Sees Licence Obstacle Removed

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

FML web shop boss, Craig Flowers, yesterday saw a potential obstacle to obtaining a gaming licence eliminated when the Court of Appeal quashed his prior criminal conviction.

The three appeal judges, in a unanimous verdict, found there was “no evidence” that Mr Flowers “knowingly permitted” his FML web shop on Wulff Road to be used for promoting or conducting an illegal lottery.

And, while ordering that Mr Flowers’ conviction and sentence for violating the former Lotteries and Gaming Act be set aside, the Court of Appeal also ordered the Crown to return $834,639 that was seized from the Wulff Road web shop by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

Alfred Sears QC, the lead attorney for Mr Flowers, yesterday agreed that the Court of Appeal ruling had removed a potential impediment to his client’s business obtaining a licence under the new Gaming Act.

FML was among the 10 groups that applied to the Gaming Board to be licensed as ‘domestic gaming operators’ under the new Act.

But, had the conviction been upheld, it may have complicated both Mr Flowers’ continued ownership and FML’s licence bid, as all those holding equity interests in web shops will have to pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test. Criminal convictions are often a major obstacle to passing such tests.

Agreeing that the Court of Appeal’s verdict had lifted this potential burden. Mr Sears told Tribune Business: “Other than this particular matter, he would meet the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, and the other requirements of the Gaming Act and regulations.

“You’d have to ask him [Mr Flowers] about how he feels, but from an objective standpoint it removes a disability that existed with respect to his application for a licence.”

The Gaming Board has yet to announce the successful web shop (domestic gaming) licence applicants. Obie Wilchcombe, minister of tourism, effectively said the Government is willing for the Gaming Board to take as long as necessary, so that it can complete effective scrutiny and due diligence.

Yesterday’s developments, and the protracted application process, mean that Mr Flowers’ prior Magistrates Court conviction - now quashed - will no longer be a factor in the Gaming Board’s deliberations.

Mr Sears said the unanimous Court of Appeal verdict showed Mr Flowers had a strong case for the conviction, by Magistrate Derrence Rolle, to be quashed.

“That shows the basis on which he was convicted was faulty,” Mr Sears told Tribune Business. “In the course of the appeal, each of the judges present had different concerns in terms of the basis of their questions.

“For there to be a unanimous decision clearly affirms the grounds we advanced. I’m really quite impressed that they gave it the kind of intellectual rigour that is reflected in the ruling.”

He added that the Attorney General’s Office, represented by deputy director of public prosecutions, Franklyn Williams, gave no indication yesterday as to whether it would seek to appeal the Court of Appeal verdict.

Mr Sears, though, said an application would be made to restore the appeal of the 13 FML staff who were also convicted as a result of the Wulff Road web shop raid.

The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal earlier this year, after the employees did not appear and their attorney, Terel Butler, said she was unable to contact them.

“We indicated to them [the Court of Appeal] that our client was really concerned about his employees, and an application will be made to restore the appeal on behalf of the employees,” Mr Sears said.

Court of Appeal president, Justice Anita Allen, yesterday ruled that Mr Flowers’ appeal had to be allowed because the Crown “singularly failed to adduce any admissible evidence” that could prove he knew, and allowed, FML’s web shop to be used for promoting/holding a lottery.

She found that “out of court” statements by some of the FML employees had been wrongly admitted by Magistrate Rolle, and used to convict Mr Flowers.

Justice Allen said no evidence was presented to show Mr Flowers was present at the Wulff Road web shop between April 23 and April 28, 2009, when the police conducted their ‘numbers’ investigation.

“Similarly, there was no evidence of any arrangement between [Mr Flowers] and any of the persons found to have been promoting or conducting a lottery on the premises, and no evidence from which it may be reasonably inferred that he ought to have known but turned a blind eye to what was going on,” Justice Allen found.

“In essence, there was no evidence that the appellant knowingly permitted the premises at Wulff Road to be used for any purpose connected to promoting or conducting of a lottery.

“I am therefore satisfied that an essential element of the offence under section 11 [of the former Lotteries and Gaming Act] was not established; that the conviction was not supported by evidence and is, in the circumstances, unsafe.”

As for the $834,241 seized from the FML Wulff Road web shop, the $768,382 in cash was taken to the Central Bank, and the remaining sum - in coins - placed with the Central Detective Unit (CDU).

But Inspector Omar Bullard, during testimony in the Magistrate’s Court, said the amount of cash seized was higher than previously stated, placing the figure at $786,831 - a more than $18,000 discrepancy.

Justice Allen found that Magistrate Rolle failed to comply with section 72 of the Lotteries and Gaming Act, because he both failed to sign an Order for the money to be forfeited and did not demonstrate how the $834,241 was connected to the alleged offence.

She thus ordered that the money be returned to FML and Mr Flowers.

Comments

asiseeit 5 years, 4 months ago

Money talks, real loud in this corrupt country. What do you want, a church, a government, a judge, a lawyer, come and get it.

1

Sickened 5 years, 4 months ago

OMFG! How can someone who performs a blatant criminal act get away with this? When the foolish judges said there was "no evidence" (with a straight face) they must have meant there was NO evidence, 'cause I am sure the police gathered up plenty of evidence during the raid. What they should have said is that since the law changed in 2014, making this industry legal, then all of the past criminal activities associated with the industry are no longer considered a crime. I wonder if the $834,241 is the same amount Flowers donated to the last PLP campaign???

0

banker 5 years, 4 months ago

Sad. Corruption. We now knew who he bought.

0

John 5 years, 4 months ago

Do you know this single action makes the government, powerless to prosecute persons who violate the gaming laws in the future. Cronyism. It also makes the judge in the case a balls less wonder as his ruling was overturned on no legal grounds. If this government wanted to accommodate and facilitate Mr. Craig Flowers in getting a gaming license, it should have been done based on the fact that he paid license fees retroactive to the time the infractions were committed. Then anyone and everyone who committed similar offenses during that time period should have been given the opportunity to pay gaming license fees for the year in which their infraction was committed and then have the offences quashed in a likewise manner. Right now Mr. Craig Flowers appears not only to have been given special priviliges, but at the expense of the judge who presided at his trial and the police who did the arrest and prosecution. This makes his case even more conspicuous, to say the least. What happens when others who are accused of other criminal offences (drug smuggling for example) wants a gaming licence?

0

Sickened 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm not really sure any more why we even have laws.

I wonder what the PLP would do if one PLP stole from another. Do they: 1. give the thief their campaign contribution back and then prosecute them? or, 2. give the victim their campaign contribution back and tell them "too bad"? Or, is the loser the one who contributed the least. Birdie can you please enlighten me on how our legal system currently works????

0

asiseeit 5 years, 4 months ago

It is arbitrary, if the AG likes you she will quash the proceedings, if not straight to jail. There could be side deals as well, how much money you have, who you know, your family name, ect. The actual laws are of no consequence, this is a fact. What a lovely place to live, Woods Rodgers would be proud!

1

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 4 months ago

The foreign owned banks operating in our country today, in particular the Canadian controlled banks, could not have been sent a clearer message on the corrupt state of our legal system and the stupefying spineless incompetence of those most responsible for upholding the laws of our country. Once again we see gross political interference in the prosecutors arm of our legal system in the form of none other than Allyson Maynard-Gibson aka Wicked Witch of the West. For the three Appeals Court Judges led by Justice Anita Allen to say that Craig Flowers could not be tied by satisfactory evidence to the activities of the gambling house raided by the police in 2009 is the absolute height of poppy cock! There are many many Bahamians who patronized that particular gambling house over the years who are quite capable and willing to tell our law enforcement authorities that it was branded as forming part of the extensive operations of Craig Flowers. As for the $834,000 seized by the police and forfeited for the benefit of all Bahamians, it is absolutely unconscionable of our Appeals Court to rule that this money should now be returned Craig Flowers or his appointed agents that front for him, just as he himself fronts for foreign mobsters. The lawyers representing Flowers (including Alfred Sears) have been allowed by a weak Appeals Court to perversely abuse our legal system, knowing that this matter will never be taken up by an even higher and much more capable court.

2

John 5 years, 4 months ago

Who said "where there is widespread corruption in a country, there must also be many laws". Call it spaghetti and try sort it out

1

John 5 years, 4 months ago

Can someone please explain why the price of gasoline in the Bahamas has crept back up to $5.00 a gallon while the price of oil is still HALF the price it was this time last year?

0

newcitizen 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure you can get more blatant with some sort of corruption. The guy claim to be running a web shop that has almost a million dollar in cash just sitting in it and doesn't know that it is actually an illegal gambling establishment. Just like that it all goes away and he gets his money back. This is a damn joke. Does no one here care about the Bahamas or are they all just in it for themselves. Buy them lunch and you can break any law you want. They don't care, they got lunch.

1

duppyVAT 5 years, 4 months ago

Soooooooooo, how much will Craig Flowers bank roll the PLP for this big favour???????? ..and will he now get his bank license or will he just buy the Bank of The Bahamas???????????

1

Boydie 5 years, 4 months ago

"how much will Craig Flowers bank roll the PLP" @ Duppy, How about $834,639 for starters

1

duppyVAT 5 years, 4 months ago

THIS PLP GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOING TO STOP ABUSING THE TREASURY, POLICE, AND COURTS UNTIL UNCLE SAM SEND IN THE MARINES AND PICK UP PERRY AND HIS BUNCH OF LAWLESS THUGS IN THE CABINET

1

Reality_Check 5 years, 4 months ago

All three of the Appeals Court Justices (namely Anita Allen, Abdulai Conteh and Jon Isaacs) who unanimously ruled in favour of quashing the earlier conviction of Craig Flowers should be subject to immediate recall or impeachment. As reported by The Nassau Guardian, the lower Court magistrate (Derence Rolle-Davis) who convicted Craig Flowers heard and had sight of an overwhelming preponderance of irrefutable evidence pointing to his ownership and beneficial interest in the illegal gambling house the police raided in 2009. According to The Nassau Guardian, the evidence presented by the prosecutor for the people of the Bahamas included, among many other things: (1) The opening of an online gaming account at the Wulff Road web shop by an under-cover police officer (Tyrone Clarke) who testified that he obtained an account card and was given instruction s on how to use the website www.nassaugames.com; (2) the depositing of $3 by another under-cover police officer (Nicholas Huyler) to the web shop account that Officer Clark had opened after checking the winning numbers for early New York, Miami and Chicago on one of the computers at the web shop; and (3) the fact that the business license for the web shop was in the name of Craig Flowers himself. The very fact that $834,000 was found at the web shop and confiscated is in and of itself very strong incriminating evidence of Craig Flowers involvement in racketeering criminal activities at the raided web shop. The fact that he did not have this cash on him personally is completely irrelevant.....after all, how many men wear clothing with pockets big enough to hold cold cash of that amount! The fact that the three Justices of the Appeal Court have ordered that this cash totalling $834,000 (representing the ill-gotten proceeds of crime) be returned by the people of the Bahamas to Craig Flowers is absolutely outrageous to say the least. The fact that Craig Flowers was not present on the premises at the time of the raid and under-cover activities of the two police officers is also completely irrelevant. It is common knowledge to virtually all Bahamians )including the three Justices - Allen, Conteh and Issacs - that Craig Flowers has for many decades been directly involved in the illegal promotion and illegal conduct of lotteries. There are thousands of Bahamians and illegal immigrants who can provide sworn affidavits and testimony to that effect. The height of the absurdity of this ruling by the Appeals Court can now only be exceeded by the height of the absurdity that the prosecutor for the Bahamian people will not take this matter to its rightfully well-warranted next level to avoid both the appearance and reality of a complete breakdown of the justice system in our country.

1

duppyVAT 5 years, 4 months ago

The COA ruling by the three stooges seem to fall in line with the recent AG rulings ................. these people are destroying the integrity of the Judiciary in our country ..................... and there is no institution to appeal this to the Privy Council ..... we are now been held hostage by Allyson Maynard Gibson and Perry

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 4 months ago

Christie is counting on Allyson Maynard-Gibson, as Attorney-General, and Lady Poodling, as Governor-General, to ensure that this most serious breakdown in our justice system is not properly elevated and addressed. The apparent quid pro quo for Maynard-Gibson's loyal role played for Christie in this matter is that Christie has now promised to bail out the annuity holders of CLICO (Bahamas) using the public purse (i.e. Bahamian taxpayers will now absorb the losses incurred by the annuity holders) and it seems to be common knowledge that the Maynard family has millions of dollars invested in annuities issued by or through CLICO (Bahamas). Yes, the cheese here does indeed stink to high heaven!

0

asiseeit 5 years, 4 months ago

I would love to see the three justices bank accounts. Wonder what this cost?

0

Sign in to comment