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Hugh Wildman enters fray at ATL Pension fraud trial

Tuesday, December 10, 2013    

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NOTED attorney Hugh Wildman, a former state prosecutor in Grenada and liquidator for the controversial Cash Plus scheme, has joined the prosecution team at the ATL Pensions fraud trial which resumed yesterday in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, Half-Way-Tree.

Wildman, a Jamaican, replaces Gayle Nelson who has had to withdraw because of illness, bringing further firepower, in combination with lead prosecutor R N A Henriques, to face the likes of Queen's Counsel K D Knight and Frank Phipps who head the defence team.

In the trial underway since April this year, the prosecution is contending that Patrick Lynch, the chairman of the ATL Pension Fund; Jeffery Pyne, a former director of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's companies; and Catherine Barber, the fund's general manager, 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 had been presented to Stewart by Barber at a meeting on December 16, 2010, had been 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, the defence continued its drive to show, among other things, that Stewart must have been aware that $1.7 billion had been distributed from the fund because he was a trustee, and that he did not raise any question about the distribution initially, and that could be seen as a form of consent in the absence of clear guidelines.

But under cross-examination from Barber's lawyer, Deborah Martin, prosecution witness Claudette McLeish, a trustee of the pension fund, reiterated that written consent should have been sought for the distribution, and that consent can only be given by Gorstew's board.

Taking up where he had left off at the break in the trial last month, Knight resumed his cross-examination of McLeish, also a former Gorstew financial controller, wanting to know if Stewart could stop the distribution of the funds. Knight read out from what is purported to be remarks by Stewart that he wouldn't have given consent and asked McLeish if his approach would be misguided. But when McLeish's answer was not to his suiting, Knight appeared to become agitated.

The veteran attorney raised his voice at the witness, at times ignored Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams' attempt to slow down the proceedings so she could take accurate notes, and hurled biting words at McLeish:

"You have already saved your job, Ms McLeish, you don't have to try and get a promotion," Knight quipped at one stage.

The other lawyers on the prosecution team are Garth McBean and Raymond Clough, while appearing for the defence also is John Junor.

The case continues today when a new witness is expected to take the stand on the assumption that Knight will complete his usually lengthy cross-examination of McLeish today.

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