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ATL trial: Police officer qualified to investigate pension fraud

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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AN attempt yesterday by the defence in the Appliance Traders Limited (ATL) pension fraud case to discredit the investigation into the matter fell flat after the investigator defended her probe of reports on fraud on the part of three former company executives.

Detective Inspector Karen Harrison stood firm under cross-examination by John Junor, who appears with Queen's Counsel KD Knight for one of the accused, saying that she was qualified to investigate cases relating to pension fraud.

Under questioning from Junor, Harrison said she had consultations with persons at the Financial Services Commission during her investigation.

Junor sought to exploit the witness' response that she was not familiar with what was an actuary, asking: "...And you consider yourself qualified to investigate a case of pension fraud?"

But the witness shot back, "Yes sir, I'm a police investigator." She added also that she had investigated "numerous cases of fraud".

Dr Jeffery Pyne, a former director of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's group of companies; Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the pension fund; and Catherine 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. Importantly, Pyne, who signed the letters, had left the company seven months before December 15, 2010 when the alleged forgery was discovered.

Lynch was the alleged mastermind behind the scheme, the court was told.

Yesterday, a new witness, actuary Astor Duggan of Duggan Consultancy Ltd, testified in his examination-in-chief that he had been in touch with Barber while working on the pension fund's evaluations. He said the trustees would tell him the amount they would like distributed from the surplus following the preliminary evaluation report and "we would endorse that recommendation".

Defence lawyer Frank Phipps, QC will continue the cross-examination of Duggan when the trial continues today.

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