Crown reexamines key witness in Gibson trial

Crown reexamines key witness in Gibson trial

Trial adjourned to November 11

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Key witness Johnathon Ash yesterday explained he sent photos of broken shingles to former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson to prove he was working on hurricane cleanup.

After six days of cross examination by defense attorney Keith Knight, QC, Jonathan Ash, the prosecution’s key witness in the corruption trial of former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson, resumed the witness stand yesterday for reexamination, keeping to testimony that he bribed Gibson in order to induce payments owed to him.

Gibson is on trial for allegedly receiving $280,000 from Ash between January 2017 and March 2017 to expedite payments owed to the contractor from cleanup work done on five dumpsites and in Centreville in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Ash testified on October 2 that he paid $200,000 to Bastian on Gibson’s behalf and further paid $80,000 directly to Gibson during secret meetings on Baha Mar Boulevard and at the gun range.

Ash testified that Gibson asked him for “shingles” in WhatsApp messages — a term he said was used for money.

However, under cross examination, Knight showed Ash a photo of a pile of shingles he sent to Gibson and suggested to him when the minister asked for shingles it was meant in the literal sense.

The defense lawyer suggested that Ash was being untruthful when he claimed he gave Gibson bribe money, and further suggested that he gave Gibson campaign contributions as he had with a number of PLPs.

Under reexamination by Crown prosecutor James Guthrie, QC, Ash explained that during cleanup exercises, his workers often took photos of broken shingles and piled them up.

The contractor said he sent those photos, among many others to Gibson, who was responsible for the NRRU, to demonstrate that work was being done.

Guthrie asked: “Why did you send the photo?”

Ash replied: “I sent many photos sir. I was showing him that we were doing the work.”

Guthrie asked: “Bundle of shingles, was that an expression you ever used?”

Ash replied: “No sir.”

Guthrie continued: “Did you ever drop off a bundle of shingles? Did you ever drop off a bundle of roof tiles?”

To each question, Ash replied: “No sir.”

The contractor added that he was “dropping off cash”, maintaining that when Gibson asked for “shingles” it was code for money.

In chief examination last week, the prosecution exhibited a WhatsApp message Gibson sent to Ash that read: “Any shingles today?”

Knight also outlined a number of occasions when the contractor, who has a brokerage business, encountered challenges with customs that resulted in the comptroller imposing customs duties on goods his company brought in.

The defense lawyer referenced incidents in 2013 and 2017 where Ash submitted false declarations of entry, suggesting he was untruthful with agents of the state.

Knight suggested this was not dissimilar to his testimony under oath against Gibson.

However, Ash refuted this.

He sought to explain, but Knight denied him.

Under reexamination Wednesday, Ash said when provided invoices he would vet them before submission, but “it is customs job to come back and check to see if there is overage; more items they didn’t declare; then they’ll tell me well Mr. Ash your client did not pay for everything.”

Ash said in those instances he would get a letter of authorization and pay the fine at customs.

He said: “I don’t owe customs anything.”

Knight asked: “Is that what happened in 2013?”

Ash replied: “Yes.”

When asked about 2017, the contractor said it had nothing to do with him as it concerned a company called ‘High Rollers’, and not his company ‘Hi Rollers’.

“It had nothing to do with me,” Ash said.

In cross, Knight also suggested to Ash that he was asked to “forgo” $250,000 on his bills in order to get paid as the bills were too high.

Yesterday, the contractor explained there was only one time he spoke about reducing his bill and in that instance, he was still paid the full price.

Ash said: “The conversation was about property; land that was BAIC’s at the time,” Ash claimed.

“Mr. Gibson, as he forwarded the message, said he had an acre of property. At one point in the conversation, I said to Mr. Gibson that I did some work and I personally wanted to drop on the bill because I did the work so quickly. Simon [Wilson] suggested not to drop on that particular bill. He can deal with it. That’s all that was.”

Guthrie noted: “Mr. Knight suggested to you it was about forgoing payment.”

Ash replied: “No sir. It had nothing to do with forgoing payment.”

The contractor testified on October 2 that he gave between $5,000 and $10,000 to numerous PLPs in their election or reelection bids. The defense suggested that when Ash gave Gibson money it was a campaign contribution, pointing out that he had erected billboards in Gibson constituency as a favor to him, and did work in Gibson’s constituency without charge.

Ash insisted the money was a bribe.

In cross, Knight also referred to banking records which reflected that Ash received six cheques in November 2016, 13 in December 2016 and 14 in January 2017.

He suggested that the contractor received relatively the same number of cheques during the month in which he claimed he bribed Gibson for payments.

The court heard as Guthrie reexamined Ash, that payments to him from the government stopped between January 5, 2017 and January 17, 2017.

The trial has been adjourned to November 11.