The Crown opens its case

The Crown opens its case

Friday, May 22, 2020

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The $400-million Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial, which came to an end on Friday, May 15, 2020 after 11 months, resulted in the conviction of main accused 35-year-old Sanja Elliott, the corporation's former deputy superintendent of road and works; his wife, Tashagaye Elliott Goulbourne; two former employees of the corporation, David Harris, secretary/manager and acting chief executive officer; and Kendale Roberts, temporary works overseer; as well as Dwayne Sibblies, a former employee of Sanja Elliott.

Those freed at the end of the trial were Sanja Elliott's mother, Myrtle Elliott, and former commercial bank teller Radcliff McLean.

In January, Sanja Elliott's father and husband of Myrtle Elliott, Elwardo, was the first to be freed.

The charges included conspiracy to defraud, engaging in a transaction that involves criminal property, several counts of possession of criminal property, facilitating the retention of criminal property, obtaining money by means of false pretences, causing money to be paid out by forged documents, an act of corruption, and uttering forged documents.

Starting today, the Jamaica Observer will publish the Crown's closing submission prepared by prosecutors Channa Ormsby, Patrice Hickson, and Jamelia Simpson and presented in the case against the seven.

[1] On June 4, 2019 the accused persons herein were pleaded to the indictment and all pleaded not guilty to the 32 counts that charged them individually and jointly for the relevant offences. Accordingly, the Crown was then put to prove the offences against each accused person beyond a reasonable doubt.

[2] On January 16 and 17, 2020 the Crown conceded in relation to counts 16, 17, 22, 24 and 31. By way of an application to amend the indictment count 19 was deleted, and counts 10-13 were amended. Following submissions of no case to answer, 26 counts remained on the indictment. The no case submission was upheld in respect of Mr Elwardo Elliott and he was discharged in relation to count 15, which charged him with the offence of facilitating the retention of criminal property. The Crown adopts the submission made in responding to the no case submission in respect of each accused person.

[3] The accused persons are charged as follows:

• Sanja Ellliott is charged jointly with David Harris, Kendale Roberts, Radcliff McLean and Dwayne Sibblies for the offence conspiracy to defraud, and separately for the offences of obtaining money by means of false pretences, engaging in a transaction that involves criminal property, possession of criminal property and an act of corruption.

• David Harris is charged with the offences of conspiracy to defraud and an act of corruption.

• Kendale Roberts is charged with the offences of conspiracy to defraud, uttering

forged document and an act of corruption.

• Dwayne Sibblies is charged with the offence of conspiracy to defraud.

• Myrtle Elliott is charged with the offence of facilitating the retention of criminal property.

• Tashagaye Goulbourne-Elliott is charged with the offence of facilitating the retention of criminal property.

• Radcliff McLean is charged with the offences of conspiracy to defraud and causing money to be paid out by means of forged document.

THE CROWN'S CASE

[4] The Crown's case is that between January 1, 2014 to July 31, 2016 the Manchester Parish Council (now Municipal Corporation hereinafter referred to as “the Council” or “MPC”) was defrauded in excess of $10 million as charged on the indictment. This was facilitated through a scheme devised by Messrs Sanja Elliott, David Harris and Kendale Roberts. Through the creation and approval of falsified cheques, invoices and payment vouchers generated in the names of “purported contractors” on the basis that they had carried out bona fide work on behalf of the Council.

Several witnesses testified that Mr Sanja Elliott asked them to encash Manchester Parish Council cheques though they had not performed any work or services, and then return the proceeds to him or Dwayne Sibblies. Forged endorsements in the form of signatures were placed on the cheques by persons other than the named payee, resulting in the encashment of these cheques and the funds being provided to Mr Sanja Elliott. M Radcliff McLean facilitated the processing of these cheques at the Bank of Nova Scotia.

[5] From this criminal lifestyle, Mr Sanja Elliott acquired jointly with his wife and parents, several real estates and motor vehicles some of which he concealed in the name of a third party, Aldane Foster. He engaged in several financial investments and made deposits of large amounts of cash to accounts he held jointly with his wife Tashagay Goulbourne-Elliott, and his mother Myrtle Elliott. The proceeds from Mr Elliott's criminal lifestyle were used to pay for several cash expenditures such as overseas trips, construction material, shopping at high-end stores and financing credit card payments.

[6] Following the arrest of Sanja Elliott on June 24, 2016, between the date of his arrest and September 2016, Sanja Elliott, Tashagay Goulbourne-Elliott and Mrytle Elliott made several large withdrawals from their joint accounts, depleting the balances.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF

[7] The burden of proof in a criminal trial rests on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is to say, to make the tribunal feel sure that the accused persons did in fact do the acts alleged in the indictment. To that end, the Crown must put sufficient evidence before the court so as to discharge its burden. We ask Your Honour to find that the Crown, in relation to the counts on the indictment, has discharged its burden beyond a reasonable doubt.

[8] As the court is aware, the defence has no burden of proof and is not obliged to say anything in their defence, as it is the Crown who has brought them before the court and as such, it is for the Crown to discharge its burden. The burden in this case not being a reverse burden, the defence could have chosen to say nothing in their defence. The accused persons did not give sworn evidence and as such, the court should remind itself that what is said by the accused from the dock has not been tested, when you decide how much weight, if any, should be attached to their unsworn statements. What is said from the dock, for all intent and purposes, constitutes the case for each defendant and is not free from scrutiny. If the court is satisfied by the answers given by the defendants to the charges, or if due to the answers given by any of the defendants the court feels unsure as to the guilt of the accused, then this uncertainty is resolved in favour of the defendants.

[9] Where the court finds that the unsworn statements are just mere denials without more, then the court must return to the case for the Crown to make its decision. The Crown submits that, based on what is said by each defendant in their answer to the charges, they have not put forth a defence or any credible explanation to account for the evidence that has been presented and as such, Your Honour must return to the Crown's case to make your decision.

On Sunday: The defence's case – 'The handwriting on the wall'


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