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Caution urged against 'sanitisation' of evidence at fraud trial

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Observer staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The defence in the Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial told the prosecution Tuesday that all individuals involved in the case should be reminded that they are bound by law to observe proper procedures and should not “sanitise evidence”.

Concerns were expressed by one defence attorney about evidence in question when a sergeant from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) gave testimony at the Manchester Parish Court in Mandeville.

The policeman, in his recollection of the start of the corruption probe in 2016, said on a visit to a house at Daley's Grove, Manchester, owned by accused Sanja Elliott, a former deputy superintendent of road and works, said cheques were among documents linked to the corporation found inside the house and in the vehicle of the accused on the property.

The investigator, in mentioning the state in which the cheques he was asked about were found, said they were without stubs.

However, when the prosecutor brought to the attention of the policeman some of the exhibits in evidence to identify, there were stubs attached.

“We must maintain the veracity of documents. [We must not] sanitise evidence,” said attorney Danielle Archer, who is representing David Harris, one of the accused in the matter.

Archer suggested that given that the MOCA witness is a policeman and an investigator he would be familiar with documents with which he come in contact, and as such be able to properly identify what was the original state.

“He (the policeman) is not an ordinary witness,” said Archer.

Meanwhile, the lead prosecutor pointed out that a witness is allowed to “refresh” his or her memory, adding that the cheques in question should not be considered “impermissible” as evidence.

Harris had served as director of finance at the corporation, and occasionally in the role as acting chief executive officer.

Other co-accused are Elliott's wife Tasha-Gay Goulbourne-Elliott, his former gardener Dwayne Sibblies, former temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts, Sanja Elliott's mother Myrtle, his father Elwardo and a former bank employee Radcliffe McLean.

The former deputy superintendent of roads and works reportedly told investigators that he occupied the Daley's Grove home with his wife and the gardener.

The eight accused in the Manchester Municipal Corporation corruption trial are charged with directly or indirectly participating in the misappropriation of funds of more than $400 million from the organisation.

A welder who has done paid work for the corporation, but admitted to encashing cheques drawn on the account of the entity for work he did not do, also gave evidence on Tuesday.

He reportedly mentioned in a statement to the police that he did only welding work for the corporation but under cross-examination said he encashed cheques for beautification projects.

The trial, which started earlier this month, adjourned Tuesday afternoon and is scheduled to resume on Monday, July 8.


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