SANJA Elliott, the former deputy superintendent of roads and works at the Manchester Municipal Corporation who was in 2020 sentenced to five years at hard labour for being the “ringmaster” in defrauding that entity of millions, on Friday lost his bid to have the Appeal Court quash his conviction and free him.
According to the Appeal Court, the “learned judge of the Parish Court did not err in arriving at the verdicts in this case”.
In dismissing Elliott’s appeal against his conviction, the court further said, “The documentary evidence in combination with the evidence of the witnesses painted a compelling case against Mr Elliott. The various counts of the indictment were proved to the requisite standard.”
The Appeal Court, in the meantime, said senior parish court Judge Ann-Marie Grainger, who had presided over the hearing, “must be commended for her management of the trial with an indictment containing such a large number of counts and so efficiently summarising and analysing the mass of evidence that was presented during the trial”.
Elliott, following the trial which lasted more than eight months, had been convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud, obtaining money by false pretence, engaging in a transaction that involves criminal property, possession of criminal property, and an act of corruption.
Grainger, during the trial, rejected bail applications by lawyers, pending appeal, after imposing custodial sentences on Elliott and his three co-accused. They were charged on a 32-count indictment. Elliott was charged in 21 of those counts.
Attorney Norman Godfrey, appearing for Elliott before an Appeal Court panel led by President Justice Patrick Brooks between May and November this year, had argued that, based on evidence led during the trial which showed that several witnesses were interfered with by the police, the no-case submission made on behalf of his client during the trial should have been upheld. Godfrey contended that the court should “frown upon” the conduct of the investigating officer who, even while a witness was giving testimony, continued to interrogate the individual and “used underhand methods” to get him to ‘give evidence contrary’ to the two statements he had previously provided to the prosecution.
According to Godfrey, “the entire trial had been tainted by the misconduct of the police”.
But on Friday, the Appeal Court, in responding to Godfrey’s insistence that the no-case submission should have been upheld, said the prosecution had “adduced sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case that Mr Elliott committed these offences against the Council”.
“The learned judge of the Parish Court did not err in rejecting the submission of no case to answer in this regard,” it stated.
In relation to the judge’s decision that there was a case to answer for the money laundering offences with which Elliott was charged, the Appeal Court said “the learned judge of the Parish Court was correct to reject his submission of no case to answer in relation to the stated counts”.
On the issue of prosecutorial misconduct it said, “Based on the principles of law…and the learned judge of the Parish Court’s assessment of evidence, her conclusion that there was no prosecutorial misconduct cannot be impugned”.
Addressing the attorney’s argument that his client did not receive a fair trial, the Appeal Court said, “Mr Godfrey submitted that considering the several complaints that Mr Elliott made, the conviction should be quashed. Mr Elliott, however, has been unsuccessful on every ground and so has failed to establish that he was not afforded a fair trial. This ground also fails.”
In the case which drew national attention, former secretary manager and acting CEO of the corporation, David Harris, was sentenced to 16 months in prison at hard labour; former temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts was sentenced to 18 months at hard labour. Carpenter/gardener Dwayne Sibbles was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment at hard labour on the count of conspiracy to defraud, while TashaGaye Goulbourne-Elliott, wife of Sanja Elliott, got a non-custodial sentence and was fined $3 million.
The evidence against Elliott was that he contacted the four main witnesses asking them for their taxpayer registration numbers (TRNs) and made arrangements with them for payments to be made out to them for work purportedly done for the parish council across Manchester. Those cheques were delivered to them directly or indirectly. They then cashed the cheques and gave the money to Elliott.
The Crown said that Elliott’s salary from the corporation between 2008 and 2016 — when he was arrested — totalled just over $14 million after statutory deductions, and was incapable of supporting the lifestyle he led between 2013 and 2016 when he was arrested.
At the time of his arrest in 2016, Elliott, the prosecution claimed, had a net worth of more than $255 million, owned three Honda motor cars, a Honda Ridgeline SUV, a Suzuki Jimny SUV, and several pieces of real estate. The prosecution said that he was simultaneously making large cash deposits into several bank accounts while paying out cash in large amounts in the construction of two residences.