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Yet another delay in ATL pension trial as defence not satisfied

Friday, March 28, 2014    

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HOPES that the prosecution would have closed its case against three former ATL executives on trial for fraud were dashed yesterday in the Corporate Area Resident's Magistrate Court, Half-Way-Tree.

The delay came as the defence opposed a statement that would have brought an end to the case outlined by the prosecution and opened the way for the defence to make no-case submissions in a year-long trial plagued by delays, due mainly to lengthy cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

The three are being tried before Senior Resident Magistrate Lorna Shelly Williams for allegedly conspiring to forge four letters purporting to be consent for the distribution of $1.7 billion in surplus from the ATL Pension Fund, from which they benefited.

They are Patrick Lynch, former chairman of the pension scheme; Catherine Barber, former general manager, and Jeffrey Pyne, former managing director of Gorstew, the holding company for Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's group of companies.

"I am not happy about this," Shelly Williams said when it became clear that the prosecution would not be able to close its case as expected yesterday.

Her proposal to have no-case submissions wrapped up before Easter was also thrown off after defence attorney K D Knight, QC, announced he would have to withdraw from the case and hand over his client, Pyne, to another attorney, if she could not "resile from that position".

Clearly unfazed by Knight's apparent threat, the magistrate calmly said: "That's okay, Mr Knight."

But the attorney was seen in discussions with prosecutors during a break in the trial, and when they returned to the courtroom the two sides appeared to have reached accommodation on a post- Easter date which was indicated to the magistrate.

The initial objections over a statement from Gorstew secretary Kenneth Lewis was led by Deborah Martin, who represents Barber, arguing that it did not meet the terms of an order by the magistrate, as she understood it.

When Shelly Williams held fast to her order, Martin -- still preening in the aftermath of her victorious no-case submission in the Kern Spencer Cuban light bulb case -- appeared agitated and raised her voice while addressing the magistrate.

In the end, a calm Shelly Williams ruled that three paragraphs with which the defence took issue should be removed in time for next Tuesday, April 1, when the documents will be entered into evidence.

The three defence lawyers -- the third being Frank Phipps, QC, representing Lynch -- are expected to serve on the prosecution copies of their written no-case submission by April 29. The prosecution is expected to serve their response on the defence attorneys by May 9. Then the submissions will be heard by Shelly Williams between May 12 and 16.

The prosecution, during the trial, maintained that the forged letters, which were presented to Stewart by Barber, were backdated to 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2008. Pyne, who signed the letters, had left the company seven months before December 15, 2010 when the alleged forgery was discovered. Lynch was alleged

to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy.

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