Key witness faces cross-examination in Manchester fraud trial today

Key witness faces cross-examination in Manchester fraud trial today

Observer writer

Monday, September 30, 2019

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PORUS, Manchester — The high-profile Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial resumes here today with lead defence counsel Norman Godfrey scheduled to continue his cross-examination of a witness from the Jamaica National (JN) Bank in Kingston.

The witness, Shawn Rapley, a junior compliance officer of the bank, was one of two representatives from that financial institution who gave evidence last Friday at the parish court in Mandeville before parish judge Ann Marie Grainger.

Since September 18, six witnesses at senior staff levels of five financial institutions have been summoned to give evidence. Along with JN Bank the other financial houses include National Commercial Bank (NCB), Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS), First Global Bank, and Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB).

Eight people are facing charges in connection with an estimated $400-million fraud at the Manchester Municipal Corporation.

Testimony connected to the various financial entities have been accompanied by a large volume of documentary evidence, much of it related to tracing the financial transaction history of main accused Sanja Elliott, the former deputy superintendent in charge of road and works at the corporation. Evidence so far has linked Elliott's name to a variety of account types in local and foreign currency in savings and fixed deposits, and reflected in paperwork having to do with withdrawal, deposits and transfers of funds. A significant part of the heavy document load has been invoices, which the Crown alleges were used to defraud the corporation of more than $400 million over a three-year period starting in June 2013.

Evidence over the last week and a half also came from senior representatives of government and statutory bodies, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) and the National Land Agency (NLA).

The NLA became part of the probe during investigations into allegations that members of Elliott's family — including his wife Tasha Gay and his parents Edwardo and Myrtle Elliott “conducted a series of multimillion-dollar transactions, including the purchase of five properties” linked to an alleged conspiracy “to defraud the local government authority of more than $400 million”.

The other four defendants are on related charges of possession of criminal property, engaging in transaction involving criminal property and facilitating the retention of criminal property. They are former senior staff members of the corporation, finance director David Harris, works overseer Kendale Roberts, Dwayne Sibblies, an employee of Sanja Elliott, and senior commercial bank staffer Radcliffe McLean.

Godfrey, one of the five-member defence team appearing for the eight accused, represents Sanja Elliott, his wife and his employee, Sibblies. Attorney Delford Morgan appears for Elliott's parents; Danielle Archer for Harris; Samoi Campbell represents Roberts and Joel Nelson appears for McLean.

Godfrey, whose client Sanja Elliott has been the focus of much of the evidence since the start of the trial, has sought to block admission into evidence of various documents and exhibits that the Crown attributes to his client by pointing out flaws that he submits affect their reliability as sound evidence.

Godfrey has also moved to intercept documents that have not been served beforehand on the defence or which, he says, have not been properly identified as related to his client. The outcome of his interventions have occasionally resulted in judge Grainger taking the prosecution to task, when lapses in obligations to the defence are identified.

However more often than not, the judge has allowed into evidence the documents or other exhibits challenged by the defence, citing persuasive arguments from the two-member Crown counsel led by Channa Ormsby, or other features of the evidence and deposition that she finds reliable.

At last Friday's hearing, the court heard the testimony of two representatives from JN Bank in Kingston. Their evidence dealt with missing files, some of which the court was told may have been destroyed. These files had personal information and banking transactions records.

The documentation was said to be partly related to Natalie Elliott and Edwardo and Myrtle Elliott.

Rapley told the court of his efforts to reconcile the information from copies of the missing files, which were found in a filing cabinet of a former employee of the bank.

Godfrey had raised several objections to admission of the copied files into evidence. Among his objections were concerns about the documents' authenticity as true representation of the lost files. The witness had testified that he made a second copy of the already copied file, as he had made an error in the first copy. Godfrey was also concerned that the witness used a pair of scissors to cut away vouchers from the other paperwork and to add his signature to document. Fellow attorney Delford Morgan, who represents Elliott's parents, joined in the objections, submitting that the prosecution had not satisfactorily established the criteria on which the document can be admitted (into evidence).

Judge Grainger said she was satisfied with the explanation given by Rapley regarding the manner in which he went about reconciling the copy file for transmission to the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance and subsequently to the court. She said the witness did what he could to deal with the issue. The judge then ordered that the document be admitted into evidence.

Today, Godfrey will cross-examine Rapley, who copied and made adjustments to the file now in evidence before the court.

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