ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Member of Parliament for St Philip North Robin Yearwood questioned the accuracy of a document which indicates that he was present at a board of directors meeting of Antigua Aggregates Limited over 22 years ago.
Yearwood, one of four defendants being sued by Attorney General Justin Simon, yesterday commenced his defence in the High Court after Hugh Marshall Sr testified.
Yearwood, Marshall, a former parliamentarian in the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) administration, Opposition Leader and former prime minister Lester Bird and Southern Developers Ltd are before the court in relation to 25 acres of land at Cades Bay.
It is alleged that Bird, Yearwood and Marshall, as Cabinet ministers, sold the land at Cades Bay to Southern Developers Limited in which they were shareholders.
The attorney general is alleging that the 25 acres were grossly undervalued at $250,000. The market value for the parcel of land, according to valuation, was $10.8 million.
Simon wants the land returned to Crown and for Bird, Yearwood and Marshall to be found guilty of misfeasance. The AG is also seeking damages.
The land in question was mortgaged to Swiss American Bank for $1 million five months after being purchased by Southern Developers, which is a subsidiary of Antigua Aggregates Limited.
The politicians were shareholders and directors of Antigua Aggregates, which they formed in 1983 as a means of providing them with an income if and whenever they demitted public office.
Yearwood was shown a minute of a board meeting which was held on June 24, 1989 at 4:30 pm at Heritage Quay Hotel. He acknowledged that his name was on the document.
Asked if he accepted that this tells the court that he was present at that meeting, Yearwood replied, “I have a problem with the veracity of this document.”
The parliamentarian was told that the record shows that he was present at the board meeting of June 24, 1989, and again Yearwood expressed doubt.
“I would say I question the veracity of those documents. A board meeting is never filed like these. This is a petition Mr Marshall brought. These were never brought to be ruled on,” Yearwood said.
When told that his colleague Hugh Marshall testified on Wednesday and admitted that the minute was correct, Yearwood was unshakable, saying he could not speak for Marshall.
He said he knew the documents were questionable and were never tried in a court of law to give legality to them.
The attorney general’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Richard Armour, asked Yearwood if he was saying that his former Cabinet colleague and friend was not speaking the truth.
He responded, “Up to now, I am not God, so I can’t say he (was) speaking the truth. I question the veracity of these documents. I have no trust in these documents.”
When the question was put to Yearwood again about his attendance at the June 24, 1989 board meeting of Antigua Aggregates at Heritage Quay Hotel, he said he could not recall if he was present.
Yearwood accepted that Antigua Aggregates Limited held 8,000 shares in Southern Developers Limited and that, in line with earlier testimony, Alethea Proctor and Roslyn Bennett, secretaries of Radford Hill, who was a director and shareholder of Antigua Aggregates, transferred their one share each on December 17, 1990.
Marshall in his evidence said he, Bird and Yearwood would meet every Wednesday after Cabinet at Kimsha Restaurant on Church Street to give William Strickland instructions on the Antigua Aggregates as he was the managing director and a member of the board of directors.
Yearwood accepted that they met weekly. However, according to him, the purpose was to “Nyam dung and full our belly with Chinese food.”
He said Strickland was not present on all occasions when they met.
Like Marshall, Yearwood said Antigua Aggregates was established in case things “broke bad” (like them being voted out of office), so they would have income to fall back on.
Yearwood is expected to continue to give his evidence today after which Bird is expected to commence his defence.
Karen De Freitas-Raitt is assisting Armour while Bird, Yearwood, Marshall and Southern Developers are being defended by Hugh Marshall Jr and Rika Bird respectively.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)