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Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

Ex-Education Minister Myron V. Walwyn charged for Breach of Trust

Ex-Education Minister Myron V. Walwyn charged for Breach of Trust

Former Minister for Education under the National Democratic Party (NDP) administration Myron V. Walwyn has become the third person charged in relation to criminal investigations into the Elmore Stoutt High School Wall Project.

Mr Walwyn himself disclosed today, November 1, 2022, that he was arrested and charged by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).

“Earlier today I was arrested and charged for Breach of Trust by a Public Official in relation to the Elmore Stoutt High School Wall Project. While I have privately and publicly professed my commitment to good governance, I have also backed up this fact with my willingness to cooperate with an investigation that has spanned five years and counting,” Hon Walwyn disclosed in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

3 persons now charged

Mr Kelvin Thomas, 55, of Chalwell Estate, Tortola was the first person charged in relation to the ESHS wall project investigations. He was charged in June 2022 with Obtaining property by deception; Making a false statement to a public officer; and Possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct.

Public Officer Lorna Stevens was arrested and charged on October 20, 2022, and was subsequently granted bail.

In 2021, a specialist investigative team was appointed to conduct a full review of the investigation conducted by the Police in 2020 into the wall project.

According to the RVIPF, this was to ensure that all instructions and further actions requested were complied with and that there was a thorough, and fair investigation.

The wall project was commissioned during the tenure of Mr Walwyn.

Public Officer Lorna Stevens was arrested and charged for Breach of Trust by a Public Officer on October 20, 2022.

Witch hunt?

According to the former Education Minister, former Commissioner of Police Michael B. Matthews had disclosed that the investigation was completed in early 2020 and its findings were sent to the DPP's Office, to decide whether the evidence warranted a pursuance of prosecution.

“Though this matter was publicly discussed by the Commissioner on talk shows and various media during its process, to date, no update has been given to the public about their findings following its conclusion.

“It raises the question as to why a completed investigation by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force that was sent to the DPP's Office, could still find itself as a subject of the Commission of Inquiry as an open investigation. Again, it's worth noting that the Commission of Inquiry recommended that the investigation should continue when according to Commissioner Matthew of the RVIPF, that very investigation was concluded in early 2020. I am left to believe that the original investigation did not yield their desired results,” Mr Walwyn, an attorney, stated.

Wall was built to address safety concerns- Walwyn

Mr Walwyn said the wall around the Elmore Stoutt High School was built at that time due to repeated and documented concerns of the school Principal and senior staff about the safety and security of students and teachers.

“The evidence showed that the previous wire mesh fence was being breached almost on a daily basis which allowed non-students, drugs and offensive weapons to find their way on the school compound.”

He said, given the grave danger posed, the Ministry of Education acted upon the request and started the process and that the Ministry recommended that the project be done by Petty Contracts and a draft Cabinet paper was sent to the Ministry of Finance to that effect.

In June 2022, Mr Kelvin Thomas became the 1st person charged in relation to the ESHS Wall Project probe.

Governor had no objections in Cabinet

Mr Walywn pointed out that the final Cabinet paper was approved by the Ministry of Finance and the paper was brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Finance. The Cabinet then decided to have the project done by petty contracts, different contractors (works orders) and suppliers rather than just petty contracts as originally sought by the Ministry of Education.

He also noted that the Governor, then Augustus J.U. Jaspert, was also aware of this and that no objections to the process were made by anyone in Cabinet.

“It is important to understand that Cabinet is comprised of not only Ministers but by an Attorney General and the Governor who though not voting members, are expected to raise any concerns about process. No objection whatsoever was raised by either at the time. Consequently, the Ministry of Education was bound by this Cabinet decision and acted accordingly.

No Breach of Trust charges justified- Walwyn

“As I have indicated in previous comments on the subject, I will never say that there were no procedural issues with this project. I also do not think that one could find any previously done government project that was faultlessly managed.

“As such, we all agree that we must continue to work on improving the way we manage all government projects. However, I do not believe that any of those procedural issues warranted or met the criteria of Breach of Trust to justify such a charge for anyone who was involved in the management of the project during its normal course.”

Mr Walwyn said if the intentions are truly the help the [British] Virgin Islands to be better able to manage its affairs, he is not convinced that labelling it's hardworking citizens as corrupt without concrete evidence and damaging their reputations, livelihoods, and sense of decency is a productive approach.

“I repudiate any such label being placed on me.”


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