By Elesha George
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has asked Justice Colin Williams to reject all of the arguments presented by the defence lawyers as to why their clients – former government ministers Dr Jacqui Quinn, Harold Lovell and Wilmoth Daniel – have no case to answer to.
The case centres on three Daewoo buses donated to the former United Progressive Party (UPP) administration in 2008 by the government of South Korea. The defendants are accused of converting and using the vehicles – worth more than $200,000 each – for their own personal use.
On Thursday, Director of Public Prosecutions Oris Sullivan opened with arguments about why the three accused should be charged with embezzlement.
He argued that the accused were employed by the public service and would therefore be considered public officers.
This was in response to the defence attorneys’ argument that their clients could not be charged for embezzlement since Antigua and Barbuda’s constitution does not recognise government ministers as employees of the public service.
But Sullivan referred to cases dating back to the 1800s, in an effort to convince the court that the three fall under the description of public servants, employed by the public service of Antigua and Barbuda.
The trial is in its final stages, having heard testimony from several key witnesses this week, including representatives from the three insurance companies that insured the buses, the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Colin Murdoch, former manager at the Transport Board Harry Josiah, as well as former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Spencer told the court that the buses were not considered to be the direct property of the government, which is contrary to the argument put forward by the DPP’s office.
The DPP’s office is prosecuting this case on the belief that the defendants committed acts of corruption, embezzlement and conversion when they acquired the buses in 2008.
They say the buses were meant to be a gift to the government of Antigua and Barbuda from its South Korean counterpart.
On Wednesday, the court heard that two of the buses were found in the community while the third bus allegedly owned by Daniel had been retrofitted and contained a television set, refrigerator, pole and other items inside.
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The case continues this morning.