A former Ilkley millionaire has been given a suspended jail sentence for bribing Ministers in the Turks and Caicos islands (TCI).
Psychiatric nurse turned property developer Richard Padgett sat in the dock at a crown court in Leeds on Monday to hear sentence passed by a judge sitting in the TCI over a video link.
After a hearing lasting more than four hours Mr Justice Paul Harrison told Padgett, 60, that corruption involving developers and Government ministers was serious but because of his circumstances including poor health he could suspend the jail terms.
Padgett, of Denton, Ilkley, had admitted a charge of bribery between 2003 to 2009, which stated that together with others he gave “inducements by unlawful corrupt payments or other rewards” to two Government ministers so they would act in a way contrary “to the rules of honesty and integrity”.
He also admitted a second charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by agreeing to present false or forged documents to the Commission of Inquiry into the activities of some politicians in the TCI.
He was sentenced to a total of two years in prison suspended for two years.
Andrew Mitchell QC, prosecuting, said Padgett paid bribes totalling $375,000. They were made through the Oceanpoint Development firm of which he was the major shareholder to further the development of a club and spa at Third Turtle.
He said: “It became apparent that in order to progress his investment he would be required to pay a number of ministers of the Crown. This was commonly referred to by others as ‘pay-to-play’.”
Mr Mitchell said the defendant started out as a psychiatric nurse before he began running care homes in the UK from which he made his money.
Padgett first went to the TCI in 1996, where he built a house at the Third Turtle Club and was regular visitor over the next eight years until he became a resident of the British Overseas Territory.
Collingwood Thompson QC, mitigating for Padgett, told the court he was very reluctant to pay but felt it was the only way to keep his project going.
Since owning up to what he had done and helping the authorities he had been left with nothing: “He’s a broken man, a shadow of his former self. I’d simply urge you not to crush him.”
Mr Thompson told the court Padgett went to the TCI with $17 million with which he supported three development projects.
Mr Thompson said his client had no previous convictions, was known to be a “habitually honest” businessman and was well-known for his charity work.
The barrister said: “By the time Mr Padgett arrived on the island, there did exist already a climate of corruption. There were ministers who were prepared to exploit their own positions for personal gain.
“Such was the power and influence of those in charge, he knew that if he decided not to pay, he could foresee that that was the end of any progress in any of these developments.”
Mr Thompson said the land involved had been repossessed and he had returned all his other land to the Government.
He said: “For a man who’s worked hard from nothing to build up a fortune, at the age of 60 to go back to that is in itself a real punishment.
“He had lost the work and benefit of a lifetime.
“It’s unlikely, at his age and state of health, he will ever be able to rebuild that fortune.”
Mr Thompson said his client was severely depressed, with suicidal thoughts, and had a number of other medical conditions, including deep vein thrombosis, which prevents him from flying.
The barrister said Padgett had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and continued to take immuno-suppressant drugs.