Tue | Oct 27, 2020

Defence accuses prosecutors of misconduct

Published:Tuesday | January 7, 2020 | 12:41 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

PORUS, Manchester:

As the Crown closed its case in the Manchester Municipal Corporation multi-million-dollar fraud trial yesterday, the defence sought to punch holes in the credibility of the evidence laid, weaving a narrative of calculated mischief and subterfuge by the prosecution.

Norman Godfrey, who represents three of the accused, Sanja Elliott, former deputy superintendent of roads and works at the corporation; his wife, TashaGaye Goulbourne-Elliott; and his caretaker, Dwayne Sibbles, argued that among the improprieties in the case was the perceived coaching of a prosecution witness under threat, allegedly with police complicity, to produce a statement.

The attorney-at-law also cited testimony from former chairman of the corporation, Mayor Brenda Ramsay, that audits done between 2013 and 2016 by both internal and external auditors unearthed no reported irregularities.

Godfrey also claimed that some witnesses were “surreptitiously foisted” on the back of the indictment and should not have been called to the stand. He said that the testimony of some witnesses should not have been accepted and that a number of counts ought to have been removed because there was an absence of documentary evidence to substantiate some claims.

Lack of evidence

Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Delford Morgan challenged the integrity of the prosecution, saying that the case had foundered on a “fundamental issue of jurisprudence”.

“I am led to the view that the prosecution should not have commenced, given the material available to them ... . The prosecution assured the court that it had in its possession the cogent information to support its claims. But what has the Crown brought in support of that indictment?” he asked.

Morgan, who represents Elliott’s parents, Edwardo and Mrytle Elliott, added that there was no formal complaint from the then parish council or any other institution that would validate the charges on the indictment.

He also accused prosecutors of assaulting the administration of justice by manufacturing evidence and encouraging witnesses to concoct stories.

Sanja Elliott, who has, exclusively, 20 counts on the indictment, had four of them amended. He maintained not-guilty pleas to counts related to the possession of criminal property in the form of cash and lands as well as the transaction of criminal property.

Also on trial are former acting secretary manager and director of finance, David Harris; former temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts, and bank teller Radcliffe McLean.

Prosecutors have alleged that over a 42-month period, starting in June 2013, Sanja Elliott was the mastermind of a bid to defraud the local government authority of more than $400 million through the use of fictitious invoices.

The matter continues tomorrow at the Porus Court.