Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Attorney cries foul in Seprod mastermind’s bail application

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2023 | 1:09 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Seprod Complex at Felix Fox Boulevard in Kingston.
Seprod Complex at Felix Fox Boulevard in Kingston.

The ATTORNEY for the alleged mastermind behind the $160-million fraud at Seprod Group of Companies yesterday complained that his client’s constitutional rights were being breached after the bail hearing was postponed and attempts by him to get an earlier date failed.

Jason Grant is charged along with 24 other accused, all of whom have been granted station bail in the amount of $400,000.

Following earlier complaints by his lawyer, C. J. Mitchell, that he was denied station bail because he refused to hand over his cellular phone, a date was scheduled for the parish judge to entertain a bail application yesterday.

“There appears to be some degree of animosity that the investigator has against Mr Grant because he did not surrender his cell phone,” Mitchell said yesterday.

But the application failed to proceed as two new prosecutors were brought into the matter yesterday and needed time to familiarise themselves with the file.

Before a date for the bail hearing was proposed, the clerk of the court informed the judge when asked why Grant’s status was different from his co-accused that there were concerns that he would abscond and would interfere with the witnesses. As a result, he was not offered station bail.

Consequently, a July 16 date was suggested, but Mitchell quickly asked for an earlier date of June 8 or 12 but was told that the court had two diaries and the proposed date was the next available date.

“This amounts to a denial in real terms of his constitution,” Mitchell charged.

He further argued that the Crown had initially indicated that it was not opposed to bail but had now changed its position.

Mitchell then reluctantly accepted the June 16 date after Parish Judge Leighton Morrison emphasised the importance of the prosecutor being given time to go through the file to properly deal with the application.

Bail conditions

In the meantime, Grant’s co-accused bail was extended for them to return to court on June 26, when a determination will be made whether to vary their bail to add conditions including surrendering their travel documents and reporting to the police.

A mention date was scheduled yesterday for their bail to be varied after the clerk of court asked for conditions to be attached to their bail.

But King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie told the court that his understanding was that the matter was set for a determination to be made on whether bail should be varied.

At the same time, he told the judge that he had come prepared with authorities to argue that conditions were not automatic.

Champagnie also noted that all the accused were not charged with the same offences and that the conditions would be based on the allegations.

With respect to his client, Sean Watt, he shared that the company had a disciplinary hearing and the finding was that there was no case against his client and he was told to return to the company. He added further that after his client was charged, the company again reached out to him and arrived at an amicable arrangement, hence there was hardly any reason for a condition to be attached to his bail.

Champagnie’s submission was adopted by the other defence attorneys, who also indicated that conditions were not automatic and must be based on the circumstance of the case against the respective accused.

The judge subsequently ordered the defence and the prosecution to have further consultation and extended the accused’s bail. The accused are facing charges including conspiracy to defraud, conspiring to engage in a transaction involving criminal property, embezzlement, and access with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of an offence.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, during a press conference last month, reported that the alleged fraud was masterminded by two information technology employees who manipulated the company’s systems to facilitate unauthorised payments to at least 23 other employees.

The multimillion-dollar scheme is believed to have started in October 2021, days after the company’s Newport West warehouse and offices were gutted by fire and resulted in losses estimated at more than $1 billion.

THE ACCUSED: Rohan Griffiths, Alton Sutherland, Mishan Richards, Phillip Biggs, Carlinton Reid, Oral Fraser, Dwight Campbell, Leighton Hibbert, Oshane S. Grant (Van Sales), Kirk Ricketts, Khourie Tennant, Juvane Johnson, Dwight Haines, Andre Green, Adrian Nelson, Neville Whittaker, Kimani Campbell, Kirk Grant, St Patrick Watkis, Sean Senior, Sean Watt, Ryan McLean, Maynard Anderson, Ramone Bailey, Jason Grant.