Fri | Oct 18, 2019

Manchester Fraud Trial | Witness nearly hit by falling courtroom window

Published:Saturday | September 21, 2019 | 12:07 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Mandeville Courthouse
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Mandeville, Manchester:

The proceedings in the multimillion-dollar Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial were disrupted yesterday morning after an entire section of a courtroom window fell inches away from a witness on the stand, sending glass splinters flying.

While no one was hurt, the sitting had to break to allow the witness to remove glass splinters from her shoe, midway into her giving evidence.

The courtroom at the Mandeville Courthouse has been plagued by issues of faulty infrastructure for years and yesterday’s incident renewed calls by court officers for a new courthouse to be built.

Built in 1817, the condition of the primarily wattle and daub structure has deteriorated tremendously with not much done to maintain it over the years.

Earlier this year, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck announced that construction of a new courthouse should begin in this fiscal year.

During her testimony yesterday, the witness – the 23rd to be called to the stand – confirmed that although she had worked for the then-named Manchester Parish Council, she knew nothing of documents presented bearing her name.

Much like previous witnesses who identified their names on documents and stated that they did not undertake work described on the documents, she said that on two occasions, she completed supervisory work for the parish council, for which she was paid. However, she also encashed cheques for work she did not do.

The witness said having registered to work for the local authority, she was called by a representative of the council, notifying her of work to be completed.

When it was done, the witness said that she was called once by former Deputy Superintendent of Roads and Works Sanja Elliott to collect a cheque, and on another occasion, she was called by a representative of the council.

ENCASHED CHEQUES

The witness said that on the first occasion, she met Elliott at the bank and collected the cheque of $400,000, which she endorsed and encashed. She said that the funds were then shared among the workers and that she received $7,000 for her work as a supervisor of beautification projects in Plowden, south Manchester.

When asked if she had collected other cheques outside of those for her role as supervisor, she said “a lot”.

She said that the cheques ranged from $300,000 to $400,000 and had to be encashed by her because some of the workers to be paid lacked basic literacy skills to undertake the process.

The witness revealed that up to two cheques were encashed at each time, twice or three times for the month.

She was presented with several cheques and confirmed that her signature appeared at the backs. However, when she was presented with other documents, she could only confirm her name and TRN, and further added that it was not her signature that was affixed, and she did not complete the work as stated in the description.

The prosecution was cautioned by the judge after a document was handed to the witness before certain questions were asked.

“It appears to me that we’re trying to prompt her (witness) or refresh her memory by putting in her hand another exhibit ... ,” said presiding judge Ann-Marie Grainger.

The defence argued that the document was served out of time.

The testimony of the 24th witness, a representative for the Firearm Licensing Authority, ended quickly, following objections from the defence that some questions by prosecutors ought not to be asked.

Grainger agreed that the questions have the capacity to reveal sensitive information that should not be made public.

Just before her session ended, the witness stated that she had received a request from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency for information on Elliot and co-accussed former Temporary Works Overseer Kendale Roberts.

 

20 witnesses to go

The prosecution has confirmed that there are 20 witnesses left to take the stand. However, reviews are expected to be done to see if the list can be trimmed.

During Thursday’s sitting, a bank representative testified that Elliott had authorised a release of his account information to the police.

The witness, who was recalled and initially revealed that a court order was sent to her from the Financial Investigations Division (FID) for documents pertaining to Elliott, said she could not have done it without the permission of Elliott as it falls within his client privilege.

She said that the search for information on his accounts yielded several documents that included client request forms, receipts, investments receipts, lodgement slips and other documents relating to transaction history.

One of the 42 documents presented in court highlighted a conversion of just over US$20,000 (approximately J$2.3 million) that was invested.

She said that there were also accounts of US and Euro bonds and some payments were made by cheque.

A second witness from the National Land Agency also took the stand on Wednesday and spoke to the process of registering land, doing transfers, and how she treated the request that was made of her to submit documents pertaining to Elliott to the FID.

The matter resumes next Monday.

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