By Latrishka Thomas
All 12 counts of corruption and fraud that were levied against former General Manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board (ABTB) Harry Josiah and his co-accused, have been quashed after a judge upheld the ‘no case’ submission made by the defense.
In 2015, Josiah was slapped with eight counts of corruption and three of fraud for allegedly performing his duties for the purpose of obtaining company vehicles and causing the same vehicles to be transferred to other people by virtue of a forged document.
A woman, Genevieve Phillip, who was alleged to have fraudulently acquired one of the cars, was also said to have aided the corruption and was also on trial alongside Josiah.
In September 2014, an investigation was launched into the management of the ABTB under Josiah’s tenure.
He was later sent home on indefinite suspension which was subsequently rescinded, and he returned to work in January 2015.
The police are said to have launched a further probe in March 2015 after the government reportedly complained of misbehaviour among high-ranking ABTB officials.
The probe reportedly resulted in a number of vehicles, furniture, documents and other material being seized from Josiah’s home.
Over the past two weeks, the duo sat in the docket listening to evidence presented in relation to the crimes they were believed to have committed.
But the defendants’ lawyer, Dane Hamilton QC was always of the view that his clients had no case to answer.
In fact, he believes that political influences were at play, and referred to the case as a “groundless,” “politically inspired prosecution”.
On Wednesday, after the prosecution presented its final witness, Hamilton made a formal application to have the case thrown out due to a lack of evidence.
He argued that an essential element in the offence was not established throughout the trial and that was that the vehicles were owned by the Transport Board.
Justice Stanley John essentially agreed that the Crown failed to prove that the ABTB owned the vehicles and that documents were forged by the accused, Josiah.
“I am not satisfied that the Crown discharged that burden and placed before me evidence upon which I can reasonably act,” Justice John said.
In relation to Phillip, who was only charged with aiding Josiah in corruption, the Judge declared that “Phillip did not aid and abet Harry Josiah in any corrupt act. If anyone is responsible for aiding, it must be Harry Josiah.”
He therefore upheld all 12 of the counts, freeing the duo. However, the Crown has already announced its intention to appeal.
But before concluding his ruling, the Judge inserted that the conduct of the ABTB “leaves a lot to be desired”.
“The evidence clearly shows a lack if professionalism and the evidence clearly shows the dangers when a government agency collaborates with a private entity for political reasons,” he added.