Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Manchester Fraud Trial: Accused declare innocence

Published:Wednesday | February 19, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Yesterday, three of the seven accused gave unworn statements from the dock declaring that they were innocent of all charges against them.

Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:
​The accused in the Manchester Municipal Corporation multi-million dollar fraud trial will continue their defence today in the Porus Court in the parish.

Yesterday, three of the seven accused gave unworn statements from the dock declaring that they were innocent of all charges against them. 

Former deputy superintendent of roads and works Sanja Elliott; his wife TashaGaye Goulbourne-Elliott; his caretaker Dwayne Sibbles and temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts are expected to give their unsworn statements today. 

They cannot be cross-examined if they do not give sworn statements.

Yesterday, the corporation's former director of finance and acting secretary manager David Harris, former Scotiabank teller Radcliffe McLean and Mrytle Elliott, the mother of the alleged mastermind, refuted the prosecution's claims that they knowingly defrauded the corporation and facilitated the retention of illegal property.

Harris said he was employed to the corporation for just under 15 years and resigned in 2017 to pursue a small business operation.

He said he did not take any of the Corporation's documents with him but affirmed that he was just one of seven signatories at the local authority. 

Harris also detailed the processes of handling invoices and payment vouchers saying it was common for members of the political directorate, mayor and suppliers to make queries about payments via email, call or WhatsApp messaging. 

During the trial, some questionable WhatsApp messages between Harris and other accused were presented.

The messages, according to the prosecution, depicted an arbitrary solicitation of monies.

Meanwhile, Harris said an investigating officer who came to his house took his phone explaining nothing but only requesting that he type in the password.

Investigators took phones 

"They subsequently took the phone outside. The only time I saw that phone again was when it was brought to court... The other phone I own was taken from my wife's handbag and I am not sure of the whereabouts. I have received telephone bills which indicates usage of the phone," he added. 

Harris, in an effort to clear his name, said that as an autonomous entity, the corporation reserves the right to decide how work is allocated in the parish based on the funding available. 

"I wish to say that all the expenditure of the council is within the approved budget by the Ministry of Local Government and all reports,
payment vouchers and supporting documents are tabled at the monthly finance committee meeting... I wish to say I am not guilty of any fraudulent actions at the Council..." 

He revealed that in his capacity, he successfully converted the manual accounting system to a computerised system under the local government reform, a model which became a pilot for all councils in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Myrtle Elliott has explained why she withdrew $2 million from an account she held with her son, Sanja. 

She said $1.5 million went towards bailing co-accused Dwayne Sibbles and the rest went towards legal fees.

Her co-accused Radcliffe McLean who is accused of facilitating the encashment of several fraudulent cheques said he worked with Scotiabank for 12 years at various branches across the island and had never had a breach. 

"I speak expressly and explicitly that I have done nothing wrong and I don't know why I'm being charged. I am not the only teller that processed parish council transactions and my supervisor checks transactions when I leave for lunch and at the end of each business day," he said.

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