Fri | Jul 1, 2022

Witness: Directors told only Venezuelans would get travel allowances

Published:Friday | May 13, 2022 | 12:12 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh
Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh

A legal officer at Petrojam yesterday recalled that before being appointed board chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh was a part of a board meeting in July 2016 where it was communicated that the board would only be responsible for covering the travel expenses of the Venezuelan directors.

The witness, Tamara Robinson, also testified that Bahado-Singh had advised that same meeting that he was in receipt of a document that stated that the company would cover the travel allowances for directors, whether local or overseas.

But, when he made that remark, she said, another board director, Harold Malcolm, commented that, “That seem like a stretch.”

Robinson, who is also the company's corporate secretary, testified in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court where Bahado-Singh and former general manager Floyd Grindley are being tried on fraud charges in relation to unlawful travel claims, said that the issue arose after Malcolm enquired about overseas travel expenses for meetings.

Robinson told the court that, during the discussion, she pointed out that the company would only cover the travel cost for the Venezuelan directors to come to Jamaica, as they represent the overseas partners.

“All our information on them has overseas information, the PCJ directors are presumed to be locals and I have local addresses for them,” she further recalled telling the board directors, but noted that they “were not happy”.

Robinson said that she advised them that she would seek further guidance from the Ministry of Finance and received a reply in August, which she circulated to the directors, some of whom responded to the communiqué.

However, the trial did not hear what the ministry said or the directors' responses as the defence objected to the witness being shown copies of the mentioned letters, including the one from the ministry, stating that they were attached together with emails on the reverse side and would not represent the document that the witness was describing.

At this time, the proceedings had reached the time for adjournment.

Earlier, K.D. Knight, QC, called for an end to the trial, claiming that the prosecution was abusing the process after both he and his colleague, Bert Samuels, took issue with testimony given by Robinson in relation to a joint-venture agreement, which she said was a shareholder agreement governing how both partners would operate.

Knight argued that the witness had expanded on what was in her statement and had taken the defence by surprise. They also argued that the prosecution was introducing new evidence, which was putting them at a disadvantage as they would have liked the opportunity to question the former general manager about Robinson's evidence regarding the agreement.

Parish Judge Maxine Ellis, however, did not agree, indicating that it had been made clear that the witness would be appearing to speak about the agreement.

After the lawyers explained the specific grouse, she told them that she did not have disclosure and, as such, it was up to them to inform her when new materials are being introduced. She then warned the prosecution that if witnesses are going to introduce new material, further statements must be disclosed.

The former Petrojam chairman and general manager are being tried on several fraud-related charges stemming from allegations that Bahado-Singh had submitted claims amounting to US$73,620, between December 2016 and May 2018, for overseas travel he did not make.

Grindley is alleged to have aided and abetted the then chairman in the process.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.