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ATL pension fraud trial enters 48th day

Senior cop objects to being described as 'stupid' by defence counsel

Monday, March 10, 2014    

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THE ATL Pension fraud trial enters its 48th day today and moves past a full year since its April 8, 2013 start in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court in Half-Way-Tree.

The case involving three former executives charged with nine counts including forgery, has laboured on with unusually lengthy cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

Yesterday's 47th day of the trial was marked by extreme tedium that became apparent throughout the after-lunch session when there were frequent yawns from both defence and prosecution lawyers and among others watching the proceedings.

Queen's Counsel Frank Phipps, appearing for one of the accused, and Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly Williams who has to take verbatim notes by hand, seemed to be the only two fully awake, as Phipps lumbered on in his questioning of Senior Supt Fitz Bailey, the lead investigator on the case.

At several points, prosecution lawyers ANR Henriques, QC and Garth McBean objected to the questions, saying the information was already before the court, or were legal questions for the court to decide and not the witness.

The magistrate, at one stage, asked: "Mr Phipps, are these matters for later submission?"

There was one small moment of slight drama when SSP Bailey asked for the court's protection, saying he objected to being described by Katherine Phipps, one half of the father-daughter lawyer duo, as being stupid. Phipps denied the allegation.

Earlier in the morning session, an expert testified that he matched the handwriting on a complimentary slip attached to draft letters to that of specimen given by an accused in the case.

Retired Superintendent of Police William Smiley, who has been a document examiner for the Government for 30 years, gave the evidence during his examination-in-chief led by Henriques. He said the handwriting on the complimentary slip and the handwriting submitted by the accused for examination were "written by one and the same person".

Smiley could not identify the accused who gave the handwriting specimen, but evidence had been given previously that accused Catherine Barber had submitted such specimen for examination.

The complimentary slip was attached to draft letters that were eventually printed on letterhead, signed and submitted to Gordon 'Butch' Stewart in December 2010 after it was discovered that consent had not been given for the distribution of surplus from the ATL Group Pension fund.

Dr Jeffery Pyne, a former managing director of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Stewart's group of companies; Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the pension fund; and Barber, former general manager of the fund, are believed to have conspired in the forging of four letters to deceive that consent was given for the distribution of $1.7 billion in pension fund surplus.

The prosecution maintains that the letters, which were presented to Stewart by Barber, were backdated to 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2008. Pyne, who signed the letters, had left the company seven months before December 15, 2010 when the alleged forgery was discovered. Lynch is alleged to be the mastermind behind the scheme, the court was told.

Prior to Bailey and Smiley taking the witness box, medical doctor Jerome Stern testified in the start of an application from the prosecution to have the statement of Gorstew Ltd secretary Ken Lewis entered into evidence under Section 31D of the Evidence Act, on the grounds of his illness.

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