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Vybz Kartel, Gaza Slim corruption trial delayed

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014    

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THE corruption trial of entertainers Vybz Kartel and Gaza Slim yesterday suffered yet another delay and failed to start in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court.

Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer; Gaza Slim, whose given name is Vanessa Saddler; and their co-accused Andre Henry are facing charges of attempting and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

However, the case was postponed due to the unavailability of witnesses and the late serving of documents by the Crown.

The absence of defence lawyer Pierre Rodgers, who is representing the female entertainer, also factored in the postponement.

Rodgers, who had an emergency and had to leave the island, was yesterday represented by Attorney Nicole Burgher. However, when the trial was about to start, Burgher informed the court that she had just received five witness statements and would need time to peruse the documents and to get instructions from her client.

She also told presiding magistrate, Simone Wolfe-Reece that she had not received two compact discs with telephone evidence and asked for an adjournment.

Prior to Burgher's request for an adjournment, attorney Christian Tavares-Finson, who was standing in for his father, Tom, complained to the court that he had not received full disclosure of the documents in the case. Tom Tavares-Finson, who is also off the island, is representing Vybz Kartel.

The issue of disclosure was eventually settled, but the court was then informed that the prosecution, too, was experiencing some challenges with the availability of witnesses for the matter.

The prosecutor told the court that one of the technical witnesses from telecoms company Digicel was also overseas on vacation, while another lived overseas, and that communication was normally done through the one who is on vacation.

Furthermore, Henry's lawyer, Peter Champagnie, told the court that his client was experiencing difficulties in meeting his financial obligations with respect to legal representation and asked for time for the matter to be properly addressed.

As a result, a mention date was set for Thursday for the issues to be dealt with.

Wolfe-Reece, meanwhile, expressed disappointed with the delay.

"The trial date was set from March and these issue should have been ironed out," she remarked. "We need to deal with the matter expeditiously, we can't just be setting dates."

"While the Crown has a duty to comply with the court order for disclosure, it is incumbent on the defence to notify the court if disclosure has not been made," she added.

Meanwhile, Henry -- before his bail was extended along with Saddler -- was sternly warned to ensure that he settles the issue of representation by Thursday and appear with his lawyer.

"I am not going to continue to push the matter back because you had more than sufficient time to deal with the issue of representation," she warned Henry.

The three accused were charged after Saddler allegedly filed a police report stating that she was robbed at gunpoint by a man she identified as Clive 'Lizard' Williams. The alleged incident happened after Vybz Kartel was charged with Williams' murder.

Vybz Kartel has since been convicted of the murder.

According to police investigators, Saddler made the report to give the impression that Williams was not dead in an attempt to assist Vybz Kartel's case.

Meanwhile, the usual fanfare which often accompanies the deejay's court appearances was noticeably absent yesterday when a slightly darker and less plump Vybz Kartel appeared in court.

However, the incarcerated deejay -- who was dressed in a white T-shirt with the words "Life Isn't Grey" and a burnt orange cargo shorts -- appeared relaxed and was observed laughing and chatting with co-accused Henry.

Tavares-Finson later gave an apology to the court for Vybz Kartel's attire, while explaining that the entertainer was unaware that his matter was scheduled for yesterday.

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