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Judge rules no consent given, but upholds no-case submission

Magistrate: Trust Deeds for pension scheme valid but consent not given as required

Wednesday, June 04, 2014    

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SENIOR Resident Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams yesterday upheld no-case submissions against three former ATL executives charged with fraud, but found that they had no consent to distribute $1.7 billion in pension fund surplus.

The ruling marked the end of almost 15 months of a trial that spun on whether the three had consent to make the distribution covering the years 1998, 2002, 2005 and 2008, and whether they had conspired to forge four letters to deceive that consent was given.

The courtroom of the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, Half-Way-Tree, was already full when the magistrate walked in at 10:11 am. The tension in the air could be cut by a knife. The accused Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the ATL Group Pension Scheme; Catherine Barber, the former general manager of the fund; and Dr Jeffery Pyne, former managing director of Gorstew Ltd, appeared glum. Lynch and Pyne chewed nervously. Lynch's high-profile younger brother, John Lynch, the former director of tourism, attended court for the first time since the trial started.

Shelly-Willaims started with an explanation that she really needed more than two weeks to go through the mounds of evidence and described it as "a work-in-progress".

In the end, she agreed with the prosecution that the Trust Deeds for the pension scheme were valid, and that consent was not given as required by the Deeds, but disagreed that the accused had lied, tried to cover up their action, or had intended to defraud. She ruled after a lengthy summation that the prosecution had not sufficently produced evidence against the three to establish fraud and dishonesty.

The three accused thanked the magistrate in unison from the docks after she told them she was upholding their no-case submissions.

The prosecution had fought strenuously to show that the allegedly forged letters were presented to ATL Group Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart by Barber on December 16, 2010, after he made a fuss the day before that consent was not given for the distribution.

They were allegedly backdated to 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2008. According to the prosecution, Pyne, who signed the letters, had left the company seven months before December 15, 2010 when the alleged forgery was discovered.

Yesterday, defence attorneys Frank Phipps, QC; KD Knight, QC; and Deborah Martin lauded the decision.

RNA Henriques, QC, who led the prosecuting team of Garth McBean, Hugh Wildman, Miguel Williams, and Raymond Clough, said he had no immediate comment, though the veteran attorney appeared grim-faced and befuddled by the judgement.

The ruling would have been unexpected, as all earlier rulings by the magistrate had been in favour of the prosecution, including their application to amend the indictment; the decision not to call Stewart or the ailing Ken Lewis, Gorstew secretary, to testify; and the defence's attempt to bring an end to the trial prematurely.

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