Attorney charged with fraud in gas station sale
Attorney-at-law Peter Asher was on Thursday slapped with a slew of fraud-related charges in relation to the disputatious sale of several service stations by National Fuels and Lubricants.
The Roylton DeCambre-owned company had filed a lawsuit claiming that seven of the properties taken over by Total were never officially transferred and is seeking billions of dollars in compensation for loss of income.
Total Jamaica has denied wrongdoing, saying its deal with National Fuels covered 10 service stations and other assets valued at US$9.1 million and that all sums due were distributed according to agreements struck in January 2004 and subsequent periods.
The 53-year-old Asher was charged by detectives assigned to the Fraud Squad of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch.
The police said that the charges include forgery, conspiracy to forge National Lubricants and Fuels Limited Company’s seal, seven counts of instrument of transfers, and seven counts of causing property to be transferred by means of forged documents.
Wildman told The Gleaner on Thursday that the claim was now valued at more than $4 billion.
“The matter is filed, and we went to case resolution, and that didn’t work, so we are here now,” Wildman said, adding that a trial date is to be agreed.
The police said that the charges against Asher came following a ruling by the director of public prosecutions.
He was bailed on Thursday on his own surety in the sum of J$1 million and is to appear before the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on Tuesday, August 4.
Total’s acquisition of the National gas station network 16 years ago marked its entry into Jamaica.
Since then, the French company has made at least two other acquisitions – Esso, and earlier last year, Epping – to become the largest network, with about 74 stations.
In the lawsuit filed through Wildman, National Fuels said that its CEO, DeCambre, had become suspicious of Total’s actions and had not signed off on all the transfer of documents and that DeCambre subsequently reported his suspicions to the police.
But in its defence filed in the Supreme Court, Total said that some of the funds were used to pay bank loans and other debt owed by National Fuels.
Total Jamaica said in its court filing that Asher gave a statement to the police that the transfers were effected and that all payments under the deal were made in full.