NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A senior police officer testifying in the corruption case against former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson told the court yesterday that she had a joint meeting with businessman Jonathan Ash and Gibson’s associate Deborah Bastian in September 2017 to “clear up some ambiguities”.
Assistant Superintendent Debra Thompson, attached to the Financial Crime Unit, took the stand and testified that she took statements from both witnesses between June and July 2017.
Thompson, who was responding to questions by lead prosecutor James Guthrie, QC, said she became involved in the case on June 25th, 2017, when she was called to a meeting by Commissioner of Police (COP) Anthony Ferguson.
She said at that meeting she was informed that she would be a part of a team investigating allegations of bribery, but was not told who the allegations were made by or who they concerned.
Gibson, 58, is on trial for allegedly receiving $280,000 in bribes from Ash between January 2017 and March 2017 to expedite payments owed to him by the government for work done on five dumpsites and in Centreville in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Thompson told the court that she met Ash for the first time on June 27th, 2017 at the Central Detective Unit (CDU) with several of his attorneys.
In that meeting, Thompson told the court that Ash introduced himself and gave a brief overview of his involvement with Hurricane Matthew clean-up efforts and allegations against Gibson.
Thompson remained on the investigation from that point on.
While she noted that she did not take a statement from Ash at that introductory meeting, Thompson explained that in a follow-up meeting the next day, she took notes which she later produced into a statement for him to sign two days later on June 30.
Asked by Guthrie how broad that discussion was, Thompson said it was “comprehensive” and Ash “explained in detail” his involvement in clean-up efforts.
Ash has testified that he paid Bastian, a government official, $200,000 on Gibson’s behalf.
He further claimed to have paid Gibson $80,000 in cash during secret meetings, beginning in February 2017.
Ash has been granted immunity from prosecution.
Yesterday, Thompson was asked by the prosecution about a July 4 sworn affidavit to freeze Ash’s bank account.
She explained that she was told that the funds were being frozen because an investigation was ongoing into whether Ash was lawfully entitled to the money.
Guthrie then pivoted from that matter to question Thompson about her interviews with Bastian.
The government official was initially interviewed as a suspect in the bribery investigation.
Thompson said she interviewed Bastian on more than one occasion where she took conversion and consolidation statements from her.
She said on July 4th, she took a “statement under caution” from Bastian dictating her account of events.
Thompson explained that the caution statement meant that whatever Bastian said could be written down and held as evidence.
She testified that Bastian’s witness statements were taken by another officer and all of those communications were consolidated on July 25, 2017 for a final document.
The prosecution then questioned when Thompson saw both Ash’s and Bastian’s statements again.
Thompson explained to the court that she saw both statements together when she met with the pair and their attorneys on September 25, 2017 at CDU.
Asked why she needed to see the pair together, Thompson said she needed to “clear up some ambiguities”.
Gibson’s lead attorney Keith Knight, QC, stood to interject and accused Guthrie of leading the witness and noted that they did not have the statements he was referring to.
However, Guthrie maintained that he was not asking questions that Thompson could not answer.
Thompson’s testimony continues today.
The court also heard earlier testimonies yesterday from the Assistant Manager of Operations at Commonwealth Bank Denisia Arahna and Sergeant 1492 Dale Strachan.
Arahna told the court that she was instructed by Ash to give Bastian a check for $20,000 from his bank account in January of 2017.
Arahna said she instructed a teller to give Bastian a cashiers check for $20,000 but Bastian refused to show Id, sign for the check or accept the money.
Instead, Arahna said Bastian said it was not what she came there for and that she came for a ‘package’. So Arahna said she reversed the transaction.
During cross examination, Arahna testified that Ash told her that Bastian was his aunt and needed the money to “pay some people for him”.
Strachan, who was recalled, was asked by the defense about communications between Ash and Bastian shown on a call log.
However, Strachan, who has testified that he extracted WhatsApp text and voice messages from Ash’s cell phone, said that that call log was not a part of what he had extracted from the phone.
The defense is expected to make an application to recall Inspector Shavone Dames on that matter.