Ford told cop: I'm trying to save you from yourself
A detective sergeant yesterday recounted how one week after two Surinamese men were held with cash totalling US$533,284, or approximately J$55 million then, during a traffic stop along Half-Way Tree Road in St Andrew in 2014, popular medical doctor Jephthah Ford contacted detectives at the Financial Investigations Division (FID) to get them to end their probe and return the cash.
According to Franklyn McLaren, a detective with the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) Financial Crimes Unit, Ford told him, during a meeting that he recorded with a covert device, that his action was at the request of persons who were part of a group he identified as the 'National Action Coalition'.
"As I was leaving the meeting, he gave me a business card with his name, and on the back the name of his group National Action Coalition, and told me to go find out some more about this group," McLaren testified on day two of Ford's corruption trial in the Corporate Area Criminal Court.
He said the well-known medical doctor also told him that he was "trying to save me from myself as the charges against the [Surinamese] men were spurious and could not see the light of day".
Ford, a former People's National Party candidate for the constituency of St Andrew North West, is on trial for two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice for allegedly offering investigators millions of dollars to end their probe against the two Surinamese men.
COP RECEIVED A CALL
McLaren testified that the men were held with the cash on April 7, 2014, and later charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy to possess criminal property. He said a week later, on April 14, he began preparing a case file for them to appear in the Corporate Area Criminal Court the next day.
However, McLaren testified that while at his office in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, he received a message from then head of the JCF Financial Crimes Unit, Sergeant Morris Martin, with what he thought were three sets of telephone numbers, one of which only had six digits - '533284'.
The police sergeant recounted that in a second telephone call, Ford requested that he come to his office and speak to him "because he did not want to speak to me on the phone".
"When I asked what he wanted to speak about, he said, 'The number I sent you will give you an idea'," he said, noting that the '533284' in the message from his colleague was identical to the amount of US dollars taken from the Surinamese men.
McLaren said he and Ford agreed to meet at an office located at 65 Half-Way Tree Road before alerting then chief technical director of the FID, Justin Felice, about what had transpired. He revealed that he was fitted with a covert device and, upon arrival at the medical doctor's office, "a tall, dark man" came out and introduced himself as 'Dr Ford'.
RELEASE THE MEN
The sergeant said he was escorted to a back office where he sat in a chair across from the medical doctor. "Dr Ford took from his desk a folder and opened it in front of me. I looked in the folder Dr Ford placed in front of me and noticed that there was (sic) only two documents in this folder and each of these documents had 'receipts for seized cash' as the heading," he testified.
He said that is when Ford started a conversation, telling him he was going to "save me from myself, as there were two men at the Portmore Police Station in custody that I had charged and that the charges are spurious and that these men are not to be placed before the court".
McLaren said Ford told him he would be paid for this. "I asked him to tell me how I would be paid?" the sergeant recounted.
"He told me from the cash when it was returned to the men. He wrote the amount that I would be paid on a piece of paper and held it up for me to see. I saw 25 per cent, then he tore up the piece of paper," the sergeant testified.
According to him, Ford indicated that others would have to assist to have the men freed and the cash returned and "asked me to write and indicate how much I would need to do that".
"I wrote 50 per cent on a paper he gave me. I gave him this paper and he used his pen and draw (sic) a line through it and wrote 40 per cent, held it up for me to see, then immediately tore it up. He was telling me that he was a professional, a man of integrity, and that I should trust him," the sergeant said.
The trial continues today.