Jamaican government faces J$150M bill in Vybz Kartel case

Vybz Kartel

The Jamaican government faces a potential reimbursement of approximately J$150 million in legal fees to Vybz Kartel and his three co-defendants following their successful appeal at the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Recent disclosures indicate that the government disbursed J$36.2 million to British legal representatives who argued against the appeal before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC). This sum includes J$9.3 million paid last year for the defense’s unsuccessful bid to introduce new evidence. An additional J$26.8 million was allocated in April for the core appeal proceedings, as detailed by data sourced from the Finance Ministry’s compensation unit and reported by the Gleaner.

In a significant overturning of the murder convictions, the Privy Council ruled in March that retaining a tainted juror had fatally compromised the verdict. Consequently, Jamaica was instructed by the London court to cover the legal expenses incurred by Kartel and his co-accused.

The exact amount due is currently being calculated by the defendants’ legal teams and could potentially total J$150 million, as speculated by sources within the Gleaner. Should there be any dispute over the figures, the Privy Council will arbitrate to determine the final reimbursement amount.

“You can calculate 36 million times four because none of the King’s Counsels representing Kartel and his co-accused will want less than what the government paid, and they have junior lawyers to pay as well,” explained an insider familiar with the matter.

Jamaica was represented during the appeal by British attorney Peter Knox, KC, along with a junior colleague, both instructed by the law firm Charles Russell Speechless. Conversely, Vybz Kartel and his co-accused enlisted the services of multiple legal experts, including David Hislop KC, Isat Buchanan, and Alessandra LaBeach, instructed by Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP.

The complexity of the case, involving four defendants and spanning over 6,000 pages of legal arguments, was underscored by a senior government source defending the substantial payments. They emphasized that this appeal marked Jamaica’s most significant legal challenge in the past two decades, necessitating extensive preparation and addressing various applications beyond the high-profile televised hearings.

Following the Privy Council’s ruling, the Jamaican Court of Appeal conducted a six-day hearing in June to deliberate on the possibility of a retrial for Kartel and his co-accused concerning the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. During these proceedings, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Claudette Thompson acknowledged that the state would bear the financial burden should a retrial be ordered, underscoring the cost implications and the overarching pursuit of justice.

Chief Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop and Justices Paulette Williams and David Fraser are expected to issue their ruling before July 31, reflecting the ongoing legal saga’s complexities and financial repercussions for Jamaica.