By Latrishka Thomas
After six days of intense arguments and evidence from over 10 witnesses, the prosecution has closed its case against the three former cabinet ministers accused of conversion, corruption and embezzlement of buses.
Police officers and government officials were just a few of the faces seen in court in what Justice Colin Williams described as “one of the strangest trials” he has ever seen, referring to the fact that he was not privy to many of the documents being used in evidence.
The lead investigator on the case, Superintendent Lisborn Michael, was the final witness to take the stand yesterday.
He walked the court through the investigation beginning with seizing the buses in question.
Defendants Harold Lovell, Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro and Wilmoth Daniel are accused of converting for their personal use three Daewoo buses donated to their then administration by the South Korean government.
Michael said that it was in Cassada Gardens where he and his team found the first yellow bus which they eventually found to have been registered in the name of Quinn-Leandro.
“There were a number of blue flags inside. UPP to be exact,” he revealed.
After taking photos and processing the bus, it was taken to the government motor pool for storage, he said.
Michael, who was an assistant superintendent at the time, said that the next bus was taken from Gambles Terrace just east of the Princess Margaret School.
And while photos were being taken of this bus, he said Lovell drove by and was told of the investigation to which he apparently replied “officers ya’ll must stop make politicians use you” before driving off.
The investigator said that later that evening they went to the home of Daniel in Blue Waters and identified themselves, told him of the investigation and asked for the bus.
He said that Daniel pointed them to a white and purple bus within which they found a television set, refrigerator, pole and other items.
All the buses were taken to the same location and stored while the investigation progressed.
Many documents and interviews were conducted throughout, Michael testified.
But after giving his evidence, the defence lawyers pointed to holes in the investigation.
Lovell’s lawyer, Anesta Weekes QC, asked Michael whether he questioned Ambassador John Ashe and Ambassador Colin Murdoch about his client and Michael indicated that he only spoke to Murdoch but did not make any notes.
He said, “Ashe was a very difficult man to get in touch with.”
Michael also admitted to not getting a proper statement from former Prime Minister and then Foreign Affairs Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Weekes suggested that the “investigation was not sufficient”.
Michael was also asked what steps were taken to find out who used the bus and he merely said that “based on investigations the bus was under his [Lovell’s] direct control”.
Quinn-Leandro’s lawyer Dane Hamilton QC then asked Michael if he would agree that
he “would have shown no evidence of how these buses left the government motor pool” after being cleared from the port and taken there by Hubert Jarvis of the Transport Board.
He said that while he made attempts to find out “no record was revealed”.
“Did you establish how she converted this bus for her own use?” Hamilton then queried.
Michael’s response was, “Yes. Based on investigations carried out the buses were donated to the government of Antigua and Barbuda by the government of South Korea and all three buses ended up licensed in all three accused names individually. As to who gave them that authority it was never established.”
It was then revealed that the officer lived in Quinn-Leandro’s constituency at the time and he admitted to seeing the bus being used for community affairs.
Justin Simon QC, who represents Wilmoth Daniel, was the last to cross examine the witness and it was through Simon’s questioning that Michael disclosed that Jarvis informed him that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave him permission to entrust the buses to the politicians and “more specifically Murdoch”.
“Did Murdoch confirm that,” Simon then asked. “Yes,” the investigator responded.
But when the prosecution attempted to clarify if Murdoch said that he gave permission for the buses to be given to the defendants, Michael said “no”.
Thereafter the prosecution closed its case and Weekes put forward a ‘no case’ submission on behalf of her client.
She argued that the charge of embezzlement was not drafted properly because it should have included the phrase “in public service”.
Weekes said that if the phrase was included as it should have been according to the statute, then the Crown would know that government ministers are not in the public service according to the constitution and are therefore excluded from being charged with embezzlement.
“Excluding those words puts my client at a disadvantage,” she stated.
She went on to argue that the charge of conversion was not satisfied based on evidence that Lovell never used the bus and in relation to corruption, the Crown failed to show how it was “improperly” used.
The other two attorneys made submissions only in relation to embezzlement and conversion adopting similar arguments, and opted to deal with the final charge of corruption on Thursday morning.
The prosecution will also respond to the submissions today.