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Round two to ATL prosecution; defence left reeling

Wednesday, February 12, 2014    

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THE defence team in the Appliance Traders Limited (ATL) pension fraud trial was yesterday delivered a severe blow when the court threw out their application for the case against three former executives to be dismissed.

The application for the dismissal of the case, spearheaded by Queen's Counsel Frank Phipps, stems from the prosecution's decision that there was no need to call Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, the principal of Gorstew, the parent of his group of companies including ATL.

It was the second time since the long and tortuous trial that the defence had sought to have the case dismissed, the first application coming in the early stages when they wanted all Gorstew files, some of which had nothing to do with the pension case.

Yesterday, Senior Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams also denied another application from the defence for Stewart to be called as a witness.

On Monday, Queen's Counsel RNA Henriques had told the court that he didn't intend to call Stewart as a witness, following queries from the defence. Yesterday, after Queen's Counsel KD Knight raised the issue again, Henriques again said that he would not be calling Stewart, noting that the decision was arrived at after he said Stewart's presence would not add anything to the prosecution's case.

The response triggered the application from Phipps for the case to be terminated if Stewart is not being called. Knight then joined in the application calling for the immediate dismissal "today" of the case, followed by Deborah Martin.

In response to the application, Henriques said, among other things, that Stewart didn't arrest anyone and that the indictment spoke about offence against a company and not an individual. The decision not to call him was taken after consideration, based on the court transcripts.

An offer was made for the defence to call Stewart as its own witness, a scenario that Knight had earlier shied away from. The defence would not be able to cross-examine Stewart if they call him as their witness. Moreover, their calling him would imply that he was a credible witness, Knight had said earlier.

Following the Magistrate's rulings, Hugh Wildman, who also appears for the prosecution, said Stewart would be made available to the defence but the attorney never responded to the proposal.

The trial continues today.

Dr Jeffery Pyne, a former director of Gorstew Ltd, the holding company for Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's group of companies; Patrick Lynch, the former chairman of the pension fund; 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.

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