Accused in $1-b tax fraud remanded
THE computer technician accused of defrauding the Government of excess of $1 billion in tax revenue was Thursday denied bail when he appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court.
The court heard that between October and December 2013 the accused, Christopher Moore, gained access to the Government's computer system from his home and manipulated the taxpayers' revenue, causing the State to lose more than $1 billion.
Moore, a 37-year-old resident of Portmore, St Catherine, was employed at the East Street branch of the Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) as a computer technician when he reportedly committed the fraud.
On June 20 of this year, he was arrested at his home during a predawn operation by the Revenue Protection Division (RPD) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA). Several documents and computers with the names of individuals and companies were reportedly seized and Moore was subsequently charged with seven counts of unauthorised access to computer program.
In court Thursday, attorney Patricia Jackson of the RPD opposed bail on the grounds that Moore might interfere with the investigations. She requested three more weeks to conduct further investigations.
But the Crown's grounds for opposing bail did not sit well with defence attorney Ramona Nelson. The lawyer argued at length with Senior Magistrate Judith Pusey over the matter. However, Pusey told her that given Moore's skills in the use of technology, it was best for him to remain in custody where he would not have access to any computer while the investigation is ongoing.
Nelson, however, countered that the prosecution had six months to conduct its investigations and that Moore had not interfered with the probe.
Still, RM Pusey told her that, in light of the situation, she has to consider the fact that Moore might interfere with the investigations. But an unrelenting Nelson said that her client was being investigated from January and that it was unfair for her client to be denied bail because further investigation was being conducted.
Nelson also challenged the amount of money that Moore is accused of defrauding the Government of, stating that the $1-billion figure was an exaggerated amount and that there was nothing on the file to substantiate the amount. She said, too, that it was unfair to attribute that amount to him when there are reports of others being held in relation to the case.
In the end, the magistrate said that she could not offer Moore bail as he would be in a position to interfere with the investigation.
Moore was remanded into custody until July 21 when the case will again be mentioned.