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Phipps finds going tough at ATL pension fraud trial

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 14, 2014    

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A detective testified in the Appliance Traders Limited (ATL) pension fraud case yesterday that she found no evidence of consent being given for distribution of surplus from the ATL Pension Fund, over which three former executives are now on trial.

Inspector Karen Harrison of the St Andrew North Police Division, and formerly of the Organised Crime Investigations Division, also defended the integrity of the investigation under lengthy examination from Queen's Counsel Frank Phipps, who spent all day chipping away at her evidence.

"My investigation revealed that consent must be given by the founder or co-founder," Harrison said in response to Phipps. The veteran attorney is representing Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the pension fund and the man accused of being the mastermind behind the alleged forging of four letters to deceive that consent was given for the distribution.

Asked by Phipps if her investigation showed that no consent was given for the distribution of surplus from the ATL Pension Fund for the years 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2008, Harrison said 'yes'.

Phipps at times appeared frustrated that he couldn't pry the answer he was seeking out of the super calm Inspector Harrison. He asked the witness if she would agree with him that the investigation was inadequate but she insisted 'no'.

Yesterday lacked the drama of the three previous days when American forensic scientist and document examination specialist Erich Speckin was on the stand. The session was remarkable only for the absence of defence attorney K D Knight, QC, who attended for about 35 minutes in the post-lunch session, following two tough days when the prosecution constantly beat him to the punch.

Lynch, Dr Jeffery Pyne, a former managing director of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's group of companies and Catherine Barber, former general manager of the fund, 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 were presented to Stewart by Barber, were 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.

The trial continues next Wednesday, February 19, 2014 under presiding judge, Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly Williams in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, Half-Way-Tree.

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