PNP’s Dwayne Vaz pleads guilty to breaching Integrity Commission Act Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

One week after insisting that he was innocent, People’s National Party (PNP) caretaker/candidate for Westmoreland Central, Dwayne Vaz, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to breaching the Integrity Commission Act (ICA) when he reappeared in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

The former Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency is to return to court on June 6 for sentencing. His bail was extended until that time.

After his court appearance, Vaz said his guilty plea was in relation to the fixed penalty fine of $250,000 that he was ordered by the Integrity Commission (IC) to pay Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), which he failed to do.

He was ordered to pay the fine after he failed to provide information that was requested by the IC in relation to a company for which he was listed as a director, when he submitted his statutory declarations for 2019.

“From day one I stated clearly that there was a fine that was not paid. In order to pay the fine, I would now have to plead guilty for not paying the fine,” Vaz stated.

He insisted that he was not aware that he was supposed to pay the fine, based on a letter he received from the IC, but admitted that, “I would still be guilty because I didn’t pay the fine. So I’m not guilty of not submitting my statutory declarations, because even in court they (the prosecution) admitted that I submitted everything.”

The former MP said his lawyers will be meeting with the prosecution to determine why the letter from the IC indicating that his statutory declarations for the year under review were up-to-date, was not presented to the court on Tuesday (today).

Last Tuesday, Vaz responded to an investigation report from the IC, which accused him of refusing to comply with its lawful requests, and of failing to pay a required fixed penalty of $250,000 to TAJ. The report was tabled in the House of Representatives.

Vaz responded in a lengthy letter seeking to explain his position, including that the IC had issued him with a letter stating that he was compliant with filing his statutory declarations as at December 2019.

In a statement on Tuesday, Vaz sought to explain what transpired in court.

He said he sought to address the charge of failure without reasonable cause to provide information requested, to the IC’s Director of Information and Complaints by way of notice dated November 3, 2020 and subsequent extension dated November 20, 2020.

“This charge relates to a 2020 notice concerning a delay in providing specific information about one entity with which he is associated. Mr Vaz subsequently submitted all required documentation thereafter, and received a letter from the Integrity Commission dated May 18, 2021, stating that his statutory declaration up to December 31, 2019, had been reviewed and was found to be in compliance with the Integrity Commission Act, 2027 – Section 42(3)(a),” the statement said.

It added that, “In court today, Mr Vaz acknowledged his delay, and pleaded guilty to the charge relating only to the failure to provide the additional information on the day on which it was due. During his plea, Mr Vaz pointed out that he intends to argue his case based on the May 18, 2021 letter, asserting that he discharged his obligations under the Act.

“He also highlighted a significant procedural lapse: as the Integrity Commission once again did not present the May 18, 2021 letter to the court, a document crucial to Mr Vaz’s defence,” said the statement.

Vaz stated that he has no outstanding declarations, and highlighted that the notice was issued three years after the letter confirming his compliance was received.