January 17, 2014

Why were charges brought against my client? – Attorney

Attorney Grant Connell is questioning why charges were ever brought against his client, Ezra Scott, who earlier this week, walked free from the Serious Offences Court.{{more}}

“If the findings in the report from the auditor was the deciding factor that brought the prosecution’s case to a grinding halt after three witnesses gave evidence for the crown, why charge in the first place?” Connell questioned.

On Monday, at the Serious Offences Court, Chief Magistrate Sonya Young upheld no case submissions brought by Connell in relation to his client Ezra Scott, and by attorney Arthur Williams, in relation to Scott’s co-accused Ruthvin Harper, also an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Charges of theft and conspiracy to steal government funds had been brought against Scott and Harper.

Harper had been charged with theft of $71,197.31 and $55,876, the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The Fairhall resident was also charged with conspiracy to commit the offence of theft of $71,197.31, $19,325, $3,400, $3,000, $55,876 with other persons, the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin John said that Trevor Phills, head of the Internal Audit Unit at the Treasury Department, testified he saw transactions made and certified by Harper, but he could not state whether the items bought had been delivered and received by the Ministry.

Therefore, it would have been difficult to prove a case, John said, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, earlier this week.

However, according to Connell, the report by Phills was prepared months before the case.

“So what fuelled prosecuting a matter with that evidence remains a mystery. The findings in Phills’ report should guide the powers that be to make drastic changes at such a ministry, as in who can do what, when and how…

“…As it stands, one can accuse the wrong man when the real architects of the plan to abuse the system go untouched, while another man’s life is destroyed. I trust they will get the system sorted sooner rather than later,” Connell told SEARCHLIGHT.

He said, prior to the Treasury issuing a cheque for payment of goods, there must be proof of goods being received.

“If there were no other cross checks made, how can one prove theft?” Connell questioned.

“I can’t blame the police or prosecuton, it is the systems in the ministries and it’s not the first time I’m seeing it in court,” the outspoken lawyer said.

Just before the matter was called up for hearing on Monday, Cephus Toney, also an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, was cleared on a charge of conspiracy to steal.

John explained that Toney’s charge was dropped because the only thing that linked Toney to the crime was evidence coming from co-accused Ezra Scott.

“In law, that is not evidence against him (Toney). That evidence can only incriminate the maker of the statement and can’t be used as evidence against a co-accused,” John pointed out.

Toney was charged with conspiracy, with other persons, to steal $71,191.31, the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, between December 1, 2008 and April 30, 2012.(KW)