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FID’s role being questioned in JTA fraud case

Published:Tuesday | September 1, 2015 | 9:00 AMBarbara Gayle

The two women accused of benefiting from the more than $99 million allegedly stolen from the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) by one of its former employees, are challenging the role of the Financial Investigation Division (FID) in the case.

Lawyers representing Margaret Creary, the mother of the former JTA employee, Marlon Francis, and his aunt, Althea Ennis, have gone to the appeal court to challenge the decision of the Supreme Court allowing the JTA to seize property owned by them because it was purchased with some of the stolen money.

They are seeking clarifications on the role of the FID and are contending that the lower judge erred in law and fact in accepting, without proof, that Francis received or benefited from all cheques drawn on the account of the JTA.

"We are not happy with the judge's reasoning and decision," said attorney-at-law Keith Bishop, who is representing the two women. "We do not think the JTA proved its case," added Bishop.

He explained that the two women are seeking to have the judges' ruling overturned because someone else cashed the cheques and no explanation was given to the court that the proceeds of the cheques were used to purchase properties. He pointed out that cheques were written to hardware stores and other reputable companies and even law firms.

"There were over 100 payees on the cheques, so some of them could have given accounts as to what happened," he argued.

Bishop said the appellants will be asking the court to find that the JTA has not shown that Francis is the one who benefited from the missing money and, therefore, there is no basis on which to connect the women with the missing money.

"It is a sad day when they can come to say because you are poor, you must always account for your properties," added Bishop.

 

financial position

 

The JTA had stated in affidavits that investigations revealed that the women were in no financial position to purchase the properties.

According to Bishop, a big issue in the case is the role the FID played in the matter because it was revealed in court that certain information had come from the FID.

He said it leads one to wonder what the role of the FID is and whether a private lawyer could get information from the FID and then pass it on.

Bishop warned that if that were the case, then "all of us would be at risk with the FID if it could just go into our bank accounts and turn over the information to the police or a private lawyer".

Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes had granted summary judgment in favour of the JTA in May but gave the defendants permission to appeal the ruling when he threw out their defence to the claim.

The judge ordered that the JTA must not proceed with the sale of the properties until the appeal has been heard and determined.

Francis, Creary, Ennis, and City Lights Import Ltd, owned by Francis' former girlfriend, Kedene Chambers, were the defendants in the suit filed in the Supreme Court.

In his judgment, Sykes said the FID Act imposed secrecy obligations on officers of the state agency, and "this court deliberately refrains from making any decision on whether a crime has been committed".

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com