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Defence lawyer hurls threat in ATL fraud trial

'If Magistrate rules against us, we call Butch Stewart to testify!'

Thursday, May 15, 2014    

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A defence lawyer threatened yesterday that if the magistrate ruled against their no-case submissions in the Appliance Traders pension fraud trial, they would call ATL boss Gordon 'Butch' Stewart to testify.

Her eyes glaring and voice raised, Deborah Martin -- who represents one of three former ATL executives on trial for fraud in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, Half-Way-Tree -- was making her no-case submission on behalf of Catherine Barber, the former general manager of the company's pension scheme.

Like the other two defence lawyers before her -- Queen's Counsel K D Knight and Frank Phipps -- Martin appeared to be still seething that Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams had rejected the defence application that Stewart be made to testify, after the prosecution said they would not need him to.

Lead prosecutor and veteran attorney RNA Henriques had said, after he reviewed the evidence in the case so far, that he saw no need to bring another witness to waste the court's time, in a trial that had dragged on past a year, as defence lawyers went over the same grounds with prosecution witnesses for days on end.

But when Henriques offered Stewart as a witness, the defence swiftly declined, apparently because they could not treat him as a hostile witness and could not cross-examine him under law.

The defence has contended that Stewart was the complainant in the case but the prosecution countered that the real complainant was Gorstew, Stewart's holding company which was the founder of the pension scheme.

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

The prosecution maintains that the letters, which were presented to Stewart by Barber on December 16, 2010 when he raised a fuss that consent was not given for the distribution, 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. The letters are alleged to have been created between the evening of December 15 and the morning of December 16, 2010.

Yesterday, Martin urged Shelly-Williams to dismiss the charges against her client, arguing that the prosecution had not proved the allegations against her. Regarding the prosecution's claim, Martin said there was no evidence of a conspiracy and that no trustee complained about being deceived.

The way was cleared for the prosecution to begin its response when Martin concluded her submission about 30 minutes before day's end. Beginning this morning, the prosecution will outline to Shelly-Williams why she should not throw out the case, as is being requested by the defence.

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