Politics

Moniz’s final parting shot: weed out corruption

  • Advocate and politician: Trevor Moniz, a former Attorney-General of Bermuda (File photograph)
  • All politics is local: Trevor Moniz assists a Smith’s West constituent at the Harrington Sound Primary School polling station on Election Day 2004 (File photograph)
  • Trevor Moniz
  • Trevor Moniz
  • Trevor Moniz
  • Advocate and politician: Trevor Moniz, a former Attorney-General of Bermuda (File photograph)

A future government may renew investigations into longstanding allegations of political corruption shelved after the Progressive Labour Party regained power in 2017, a former attorney-general said this week.

Trevor Moniz, speaking on Monday, a week after he stepped down as an Opposition MP, was Attorney-General under the One Bermuda Alliance from 2014 until the 2017 landslide for the PLP.

Mr Moniz insisted he had no regrets from his 27-year career as an MP, but accused his successor, Kathy Lynn Simmons, of dropping a raft of civil claims drawn up when he was in office.

“Hopefully, some of these matters can be pursued by future administrations that are more minded to address political corruption,” he said.

Mr Moniz warned: “If you don’t address it, it will just continue.

“It’s not going to disappear. It’s something you have to attack all the time to keep it out of your political system.”

The outspoken former MP’s remarks echoed his resignation letter that alleged wrongdoing in PLP governments before 2012.

The PLP, however, hit back in defence of its record in office and branded Mr Moniz’s claims as “shameful” and an example of petty political point-scoring.

But the former MP for Smith’s West insisted there was “a huge amount of evidence of serious political corruption during the PLP administration prior to 2012” which had been picked up by audits.

Mr Moniz said: “There were a considerable number of Auditor-General reports under Heather Jacobs Matthews.

“Bermuda really needs to address those matters.”

Mr Moniz explained: “Out of those special reports and regular reports, red flags were put on a number of projects including the building of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans court building, the Port Royal case — there were all sorts of red flags on major public projects where millions upon millions of dollars went missing.”

He said: “And there were unanswered questions to the Auditor-General, where she couldn’t get the information she needed to finalise her financial reporting.”

He said criminal prosecutions from the cases, some of which were referred for investigation by a March 2016 Commission of Inquiry into the allegations, were “the job of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

He added: “There is no statute of limitations on those criminal proceedings. That’s a matter for the DPP. Those are matters of great concern.”

But Mr Moniz said he had drawn up “civil claims, mainly civil recovery claims, I think ten or 12, which were ready to proceed” while he was Attorney-General.

Mr Moniz was speaking after The Royal Gazette quizzed him on why his repeated allegations of fraud had failed to yield concrete evidence of corruption.

He repeated his claim from his resignation letter over his 2017 civil case against the Lahey Group, a leading clinic in Massachusetts that was accused of fraud through the Bermuda clinics of Ewart Brown, a former premier.

Both denied any wrongdoing.

The case was thrown out by the US District Court in Massachusetts in 2018.

Ms Simmons later said the case was “closed, and we do not intend to pursue it any further”.

But Mr Moniz this week maintained it had “failed on a purely technical ground”.

He said: “The judge so commented and even commented on the possibility of criminal proceedings in that case, or some sort of state proceedings in the US or civil proceedings in Bermuda. There were a number of options.”

Mr Moniz added that there had been a string civil claims, which are not publicly listed, but that Ms Simmons said “she didn’t intend to proceed on any of them and doesn’t seem to have proceeded on any of them, which does great damage to Bermuda — substantial damage, as well as reputational damage”.

Ms Simmons’s office did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Dr Brown launched a libel case against Mr Moniz in January over the Lahey case.

Mr Moniz, who was elected MP in 1993 under the former United Bermuda Party, also complained about “the ascendancy of populist politics” and a “decline in old-style formality and good manners” in Parliament, which was fuelled by social media.

He said: “Every motion to adjourn, you see the same people giving the same vitriolic commentary.

“Certain Members have repeated the same speech perhaps 100 or 200 times.

“They vie with each other as to how emotional and vitriolic they can be, full of racial hatred towards white people, full of misogyny.”

Mr Moniz — a harsh critic of the UBP in the 1990s — added any of his contrary positions in the OBA government from December 2012 to July 2017 would fall under Cabinet confidentiality.

But he said: “I took very strong stands on many issues, some which came out into the public — for example, a very difficult one for both parties and Bermuda as a whole was same-sex marriage.”

The issue went to a referendum in 2016, which failed to get enough votes to make the decision binding.

Mr Moniz said: “I gave an interview with a radio station saying it was not appropriate to take an issue of human rights to a referendum.

“I made that statement before I knew we were going to a referendum, as a Cabinet member ... we then decided to go to a referendum.”

Mr Moniz added: “People are very easily swayed by emotions.”

He said he had “no idea” if more old-guard members of the OBA would retire before the next General Election.

But he added: “I would suspect not.”

Mr Moniz dismissed the notion that a UBP past was a political liability for members of the Opposition.

He said: “I think it’s a false narrative that political operatives get out there in the public domain and just keep repeating it, over and over again.”

He said the OBA was “the broad church party, the party of broad views, diverse backgrounds” and that the PLP was “monolithic” and “march lock-step”, even on matters of conscience such as same-sex marriage.

Mr Moniz added: “That’s because they’re under fear that if they don’t go with the party, they’re going to be gone very quickly.”

Mr Moniz said House of Assembly debates could run for more than 24 hours before time limits were introduced.

But he added debates could still be just as gruelling because “it’s become in some cases much more unpleasant”.

He highlighted that when the PLP was in Opposition, the party brought a motion of censure against the Speaker, Randy Horton, one of its own members, in July 2015 which accused him of collusion with the OBA.

Mr Moniz said his repeated stands in defence of Mr Horton, “hour after hour after hour”, had been tough.

He added that, despite the PLP’s 25-11 majority in the House, his former colleagues should stick to the wicket.

He said: “We shouldn’t soft-pedal or go easy on them. We need to criticise; that’s our job.”

Mr Moniz added: “I think we need more Members in the House. We’re looking for people who can handle their own inner debate.

“Over the years you sometimes see Members who come to the House who are not comfortable in the House.”

He said he had seen former senators used to the “refined atmosphere” of the Upper House left floundering in the more aggressive House of Assembly.

Mr Moniz added that, although he had left politics, he would stay involved in public life.

He said: “I will keep expressing my views, I guess, even when people aren’t interested in hearing them. A lot of people come to me for advice, and I obviously give them that advice. They don’t always follow it. But that’s fair enough.”