Committal date set for trio charged with Customs fraud

Foston George after appearing in the St John's Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Joesine Christian and Rowan Matthew after appearing in the St John's Magistrate’s Court yesterday
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By Latrishka Thomas

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Fraud-accused Customs officer Joesine Christian and brokers Rowan Matthew and Foston George will appear before St John’s Magistrate’s Court on October 5 for their committal hearing.

The trio were jointly charged with conspiracy to defraud last Friday in relation to a 2017 incident in which Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s signature was reportedly forged.

Christian is also charged with cheating the public revenue and corruption in public office.

The two brokers are facing additional charges of obtaining money by false pretences and making a false declaration.

The crime in which the three reportedly gained a large sum of money is alleged to have taken place in November 2017 at the Deep Water Harbour.

The investigation into this incident began about two years ago after the PM informed the authorities that his signature had been forged.

It wasn’t until last week that law enforcement apparently had a breakthrough and charged the trio.

They spent a few days behind bars, but were able to obtain bail on Monday when Justice Colin Williams agreed to hear the application despite it being a public holiday.

Bail was set in the amount of $10,000.

They were also ordered to surrender their travel documents, report to a police station once a week, and avoid interacting with any potential witnesses, along with other conditions.

Yesterday, the three accused appeared in the St John’s Magistrate’s Court with their attorneys and were told to return in two months.

But before that, attorney Wendel Robinson who represents George, and was holding for Andrew O’Kola, Matthew’s lawyer, claimed that there had been “an abuse of process” and that the police “perjured themselves” by charging the three defendants before obtaining a search warrant.

He therefore asked for the information upon which the search warrant was based to be disclosed.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appeared on behalf of the Crown.

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