Former Tourism Minister Zane DeSilva and his daughter, Zarah Harper were today acquitted by a Supreme Court jury of charges which alleged the pair to have provided false information to the Ministry of National Security.

The charges had been brought as a result of an application for a large group exemption in advance of a party that was held at the Blu Bar and Grill on July 3, 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Mr DeSilva and then National Security Minister Wayne Caines both caught on video among the revellers at the event.

The party was asserted to have been organised by Ms Harper, the husband of prominent reggae artist Colin Harper, better known as Collie Buddz, as a means of providing an economic boost to the Island’s flailing hospitality industry, as well as being a fund-raiser in support of the Meals On Wheels a community service charity that dispenses free lunches.

A four male, eight female jury disagreed with the prosecution’s assertion of wrongdoing, as they came back with a unanimous not guilty verdict following some three hours of deliberation.

Upon leaving the court Mr DeSilva was asked by TNN’s Trevor Lindsay as to the stressfulness of the recent ordeal.

“Stressful? Yes,” said Mr DeSilva, whose Ministerial position, as well as that of Mr Caines, became fallout as a result of the perceived scandal, with both reduced to the backbench. “To our family, our friends, our supporters, our colleagues. I’d like to take this time to thank them all.

“Their support for us has been tremendous.

“This is something that should never have happened. Should never have happened.

“This could have been any one of my colleagues. Any minister. Our Premier. Any of my members on either side of the aisle. This could have been any one of us. And it shouldn’t have happened. And it cannot happen.”

His voice cracking with emotion, Mr DeSilva went on to offer gratitude to his lawyer Mr Jerome Lynch QC for his efforts in gaining the acquittal, as well as giving thanks to the judge, jury and all those that sat and/or stood in he and his daughter’s corner throughout the course of the week and a half long trial.

Added Mr DeSilva: “All I can say is that I’m happy it’s over. I’m happy for my family. We’ve been through hell and back and we’ll just enjoy these next couple of hours together.”

Meanwhile, Ms Harper offered no comment when asked, other than to say that the result of the proceedings was “amazing”.

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