Fri | Feb 28, 2020

WhatsApp messages prove nothing, defence argues

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2020 | 12:41 AM

PORUS, Manchester:

WhatsApp messages presented as part of an arsenal of evidence by prosecutors in the multimillion-dollar Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial was shot down by defence attorneys on Tuesday.

Danielle Archer, who represents David Harris, former secretary manager and director of finance at then parish council, said that there was no substance to allegations of criminal intent in telephonic messages between Harris and two other accused, Sanja Elliott, former deputy superintendent of roads and works, and temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts.

She told the court that the messages included phone numbers, identification numbers, tax registration numbers, and details on cheques.

However, she said that one-sided messages did not contextualise the true account of the full conversation or indicate corruption or fraud.

Archer also questioned why Harris was only one of several signatories from the corporation whose cheque approvals were the subject of court scrutiny.

Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Samoi Campbell said much of the prosecution’s case rested on information that money was paid for work either not done or already done for, or on behalf of, the municipal corporation. However, she insisted that those assertions were unsubstantiated.

NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE

Campbell, who operates from the law office of Peter Champagnie and represents Roberts, said that there existed no credible evidence of a fraud conspiracy, reaffirming that the prosecution had not proven that work for which invoices had been prepared had not been performed.

Roberts has been charged with conspiracy to defraud in excess of $10 million and uttering forged documents.

Much like Archer, Campbell, too, raised the issue of missing documents and unconvincing testimony from expert and other witnesses.

She argued that the evidence elicited failed to establish that the accused persons benefited from the processing of contractor invoices, as there were no reported irregularities at the corporation during the period in question.

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.

Also on trial are Elliott’s wife, TashaGaye Goulbourne-Elliott; his parents, Edwardo and Mrytle Elliott; his caretaker, Dwayne Sibbles; and bank teller Radcliffe McLean.

The matter continues tomorrow in the Porus Court.

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