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A 'red herring' floated at the ATL pension fraud trial

Friday, March 14, 2014    

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THE prosecution at the ATL pension fraud trial quickly moved to scuttle a defence 'red herring' Wednesday, but apparently not quickly enough.

Attorney Deborah Martin's attempt to link the fraud trial of three former ATL executives to an old investigation involving Sandals hotel chain in the Turks and Caicos Islands caught at least one media house flat-footed.

The Gleaner newspaper made a headline out of Martin's action, but worsened it by not informing readers that prosecution lawyers had quickly discredited the move by pointing out that it was a red herring.

Neither did the news report headlined "ATL Investigator Unaware If US, UK Were Probing Sandals" mention that the old case was settled with Sandals principals being exonerated, after one of its executives undertook an illegal transaction in the TCI two years ago.

One prosecution lawyer yesterday questioned the motive behind the Gleaner report.

"It's clearly a bad report that did not reflect accurately and fully what happened," the attorney said.

Speculation had been rife as to which former Sandals executive was guilty of the illegal TCI transaction and whether any of the three former executives in the pension fraud trial was that individual. The Jamaica Observer is, however, unable to report the name at this time.

But the newspaper can report that one of the three — Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the pension fund and the alleged mastermind behind the conspiracy, according to court papers — brought up the old TCI case in a statement to the Financial Services Commission.

In that statement, which was handed to investigators and filed in the St Andrew Resident Magistrate's Court, Half-Way-Tree, Lynch alleged that the TCI case was the cause of what was happening to him in Jamaica.

Prosecutors insist that it is the alleged forgery to deceive that consent was given that was behind the fraud charges, and that all other suggestions were red herrings to cover up the trail.

Along with Lynch, Catherine Barber, the former general manager of the pension fund, and Jeffery Pyne, the former managing director of Gorstew, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's holding company, are charged with forging four letters to deceive that consent was given for the distribution of $1.7 billion in surplus from the ATL pension fund, from which they benefited.

The letters were backdated, according to evidence at the trial, and signed by Pyne seven months after he had left the company after allegedly falling out with Stewart. An American forensic document analyst found in tests that the letters were signed one on top of the other, causing impressions from the 1998 letter to be on the 2002 letter.

So far, the defence has rarely touched the four letters in their cross-examination, after 52 days of hearings covering a full year.

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