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Absence of statements from Portia, ex-PM delays NHT fraud case

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 10, 2012    

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OUTSTANDING statements from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and a former prime minister is said to be holding up the National Housing Trust (NHT) fraud case in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court.

The court was told yesterday that the case is ready to proceed to trial, but that statements from Simpson Miller and an ex-prime minister, who was not named in court, were yet to be submitted.

The case will again be mentioned on the afternoon of September 4 for plea and case management.

The eight accused in the matter are NHT employee Ann-Marie Connallie, her daughter Chantel Connallie, Andrew Williamson, Tasha-Gay Slater, Luis Mills, Christoph Madden, Rachelle Bryan, and Rania Bonner.

They are facing a slew of charges, including conspiracy to defraud and causing money to be paid out by means of false pretence.

Williamson, who yesterday joined with the other accused persons, was ordered finger-printed.

The 43-year-old Connallie, who worked in NHT's Contribution Refunds Department and who resides in Portmore, St Catherine, is alleged to be the mastermind behind the scam for which the charges were laid.

A total of 19 accounts were affected, including those of Simpson Miller; former Prime Minister PJ Patterson; Audley Shaw, the former finance minister in the previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government; and former JLP Member of Parliament Michael Stern.

Reports are that the account of former Prime Minister Andrew Holness was also affected.

On June 7, Clifford Chambers, the superintendent in charge of the Fraud Squad, told the Jamaica Observer that a little over $200,000 was alleged to have been taken from Patterson's account. Shaw's account, it is alleged, was raided of $133,000. The prime minister's account allegedly had $82,000 taken from it, while that of Stern allegedly had $67,000 taken.

Nineteen accounts were allegedly raided multiple times over a two-year period, starting in 2010, of just over $1 million.

According to Chambers, the alleged fraud was perpetrated when the system inside the Contribution Refunds Unit was manipulated to create fraudulent refunds which were allegedly collected by the six co-accused.

The information, it is alleged, was manipulated to show that the victims had applied for their contribution refund, but then the names were changed, allegedly to those of four of the accused, to facilitate the collection of the funds, said Chambers. The names, it is being alleged, were then changed back to those of the original account holders after the funds were picked up.

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