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Millions frozen - Court orders lockdown on apartment complex, cash, high-end vehicles

Published:Monday | September 12, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

A High court judge has issued an order freezing approximately $220 million in cash, property and other assets traced by law-enforcement authorities to Sanja Elliott, the official charged in connection with the multimillion-dollar fraud uncovered at the Manchester Parish Council.

The restraint order, issued by Justice David Batts last Tuesday, covers an apartment complex consisting of 11 units, a four-storey family house, four residential lots, six high-end motor vehicles, including a Honda Ridgeline, and several bank accounts.

The Financial Investigations Division (FID), which has joined forces with the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to probe the near $100-million fraud at the parish council, confirmed late yesterday that it was in possession of the restraint order.

"As part of the ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering concerning a senior official at the Manchester Parish Council, an application for restraint order was made by the FID in the Supreme Court," the agency told The Gleaner.

"The restraint order was granted by Justice Batts. The investigation will intensify and the FID and MOCA will continue to collaborate to identify and investigate all acts of corruption, fraud and money laundering," the agency added.

Elliott, the deputy superintendent in charge of roads and works at the Manchester Parish Council, was arrested and charged in June along with 27-year-old Mandeville carpenter, Dwayne Sibbles, following a series of coordinated operations. Both men were charged with conspiracy to defraud, obtaining money by false pretence, and forgery.

During their first appearance in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on June 30, prosecutors revealed that the "grand fraud" had reached $9.2 million "and counting".

However, when they appeared before the Manchester Parish Court a month later, investigators indicated that the fraud had reach $95 million and that both men had been slapped with more than 50 additional fraud-related charges.

In addition, a second official at the parish council, temporary work overseer, Kendale Roberts, was also arrested and charged with forgery and uttering forged documents.

Outlining the allegations against the three men, prosecutors said that the names and taxpayer registration numbers of several persons who previously did work for the council were used to create fictitious payment vouchers.

According to prosecutors, the information was relayed to Roberts by Elliott via the Internet-based platform WhatsApp, with instructions to prepare payment vouchers for work that was never carried out. Sibbles was the person who cashed the cheques, according to prosecutor.

"All of this evidence was extracted from devices taken from the three men," one prosecutor explained. "When investigators contacted the individuals (whose names appeared on the payment vouchers), they were unaware of the work shown on the document," according to the prosecutor.