Judge bars document from evidence in Cuban light bulb trial

Published: Tuesday | December 3, 2013 Comments 0

Prosecutors yesterday led evidence detailing how a key document related to the Cuban light bulb project found its way into then Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce (MITEC) after the police, the auditor general and the contractor general began probing the matter.

The evidence came from Fitzroy Vidal, who was then a senior energy engineer at MITEC, as the corruption trial of former junior minister Kern Spencer and his then personal assistant resumed in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate Court.

However, lead prosecutor, Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, suffered a major setback when presiding magistrate Judith Pusey upheld an objection by Spencer's attorney Deborah Martin barring the documents from being tendered into evidence.

The contents of the document were not disclosed, but Martin objected on the grounds that it was not created by Vidal.

Spencer and Wright are on trial for illicit enrichment and money laundering arising from the implementation of the Cuban light bulb programme.

The programme was started as a plot in 2006 before it was expanded islandwide later that year.

Giving evidence about the circumstances under which the document got to the energy ministry, Vidal told the court that he was on his way to work about 7 o'clock on the morning of September 27, 2007 when he got an telephone call from Reginald Budhan, who was the director of policy and research at the ministry at the time.

Vidal said as a result of the call, he went to his office and checked his email messages.

Vidal, who is now the principal director for energy in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, testified that he reviewed a document that was email, to him by Budhan relating to the light bulb project.

"After reviewing it [the document], I made the changes he [Budhan] asked me to make," he testified.

"What did you then do with it?" Llewellyn questioned.

"I followed Budhan's instructions and sent it to one Mr Mason at the Auditor General's Department," Vidal replied.

He said he telephoned Budhan later that day after 'Mr Mason' "said certain things to me".

Vidal testified that approximately 20 minutes after the telephone call he was in his office when he got a call from Spencer.

"At that time, was he still working at the ministry?" Llewellyn questioned.

"No," Vidal replied.

"What did he say?" Llewellyn pressed.

"He said he had spoken to Mr Budhan and he was going to send me the document requested by Mr Budhan," Vidal replied.

He testified that the following day he got the document in a sealed envelope from an unidentified man who was not employed to the ministry, but defence attorneys objected when prosecutors tried to link Spencer to the delivery.

Vidal will continue giving evidence when the trial continues today.

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