Crown to challenge Smith’s acquittal

Crown to challenge Smith’s acquittal
Attorney General Carl Bethel. (FI:E PHOTO)

AG expects judgement to form basis of appeal


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Crown is expected to challenge Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt’s decision to dismiss the case of former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Frank Smith, who was on trial for extortion and bribery.

When contacted yesterday, Attorney General Carl Bethel said he was made to understand by the director of public prosecutions that there are plans to appeal.

“I have been informed by the director of public prosecutions of his intentions to appeal in short order,” Bethel told Eyewitness News Online.

He added that he believes certain commentary by the judge, namely those related to Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, will form a part of the submissions that will be made in the appeal.

Last Friday, Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt determined there was no case for Smith to answer.

She said the prosecution failed to prove that Smith, the former Public Hospitals Authority chairman, received bribes in the amount of $60,000 from the complainant, Barbara Hanna, between 2016 and 2017.

Hanna, the owner of Magic Touch Cleaning, was awarded a $516,000 contract to clean the critical care unit of Princess Margaret Hospital.

In the nearly two-hour ruling, Ferguson-Pratt said the prosecution solely relied on the testimony of Hanna, whom the judge said had a dishonest disposition.

She noted that Hanna repeatedly told the court she felt pressured, used, and gave evidence against her will.

The judge also noted she found Hanna to be truthful when it suited her purpose and was often evasive and inherently inconsistent with her answers during cross-examination.

Following her ruling, Ferguson-Pratt said the award of a second contract of $1.8 million by Sands after the complainant made the corruption allegations, raised a “spectre of impropriety”.

Ferguson-Pratt noted that Sands awarded the contract without the approval of the PHA board.

As it relates to Dames, who met with Hanna before she made her official complaint, Ferguson-Pratt said the meeting with the complainant was “unorthodox to say the least”.

While being cautious with his commentary as the matter is expected to be appealed, the attorney general said, “The comments made by the magistrate about the ministers and relied on by the leader of the opposition will necessarily, in my view as a lawyer, form a part of submissions that will be made in the appeal.

“I can’t speak for the DPP, but looking at it as a lawyer, clearly these are issues that have to be addressed in the appeal, and therefore I do not wish to comment on them.”

He added, “Her comments and reflections on the conduct of my colleague ministers will necessarily in my view as a lawyer, and not by — I have had no consultations — but that would necessarily be a matter addressed in the appeal.”

During a press conference at PLP headquarters yesterday, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis called on Dames and Sands to resign.

He said if they fail to do so, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis should fire them.

Davis also asserted that the behaviour of the attorney general ought to be reviewed, saying Bethel and the lead counsel for the Crown should have stopped this case before it reached the stage of a no submission case.

In response, Bethel said Davis should be well aware as a senior attorney that discontinuance of any matter rests with the director of public prosecutions.

He advised the PLP leader against “indulging himself in fruitless name calling”.