Knight, Wildman square off at ATL pension fraud trial
A senior lawyer to the Appliance Traders Ltd (ATL) Pension Fund testified in the fraud case of three former executives that she advised the general manager of the scheme from as far back as 2007 that consent was needed for the distribution of pension surplus.
Lynda Mair, who is a partner in the law firm Patterson Mair & Hamilton, gave the evidence amid a series of objections from defence attorneys, which resulted in not much evidence being taken in the trial before Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court in Half-Way-Tree.
Mair, who made the disclosure during her evidence-in-chief which was led by attorney for the prosecution Garth McBean, said that then pension fund manager Catherine Barber, who is now one of the accused, had sought her advice in June 2007 about two surplus distributions from 1992 and 1995. Mair said she subsequently informed Barber that consent was needed from the board of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's companies, for the distribution from the fund.
Later in the proceedings, Mair testified that Barber responded to her in August of 2007 saying that if consent was not obtained from Gorstew Ltd for the two bonus allocations of 1992 and 1995, "I do not think it would have properly been made".
The prosecution is contending that Patrick Lynch, the chairman of the ATL Pension Fund; Jeffery Pyne, a former director of Gorstew; and Catherine Barber, the fund's general manager, 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, defence attorneys Frank Phipps, QC, KD Knight, QC, and Deborah Martin raised a number of challenges to Barber's letters seeking advice and Mair's response being entered into evidence. Among the concerns were that the letters were copies made of copies of the original and that the 1992 and 1995 dates were not part of the indictment against the three.
The lawyers also renewed previous applications for disclosure of communication between Mair and Barber.
But McBean said that the letters were relevant to show that the accused persons were well aware that consent was needed from Gorstew's board before any distribution of surplus could be made.
RM Shelly-Williams refused the application for disclosure but reserved for today her ruling on the matter of the relevance of the letters.
In the afternoon session, it began to emerge that lead defence attorney Knight and newly added prosecutor, Hugh Wildman would be on collision course, after Knight suggested that expletives — the word 'crap' — were used in the courtroom. Wildman insisted that he had only used the word 'rubbish'.
RM Shelly-Williams, at the break, kept the attorneys behind and read the riot act, telling them she would not tolerate any shouting in her court.
Earlier in the proceedings, Knight completed his overnight cross-examination of Claudette McLeish, trustee of the pension fund, paving the way for the appearance of veteran attorney Mair.