Frank Smith acquitted of bribery and extortion charges

Frank Smith, centre, with his legal team.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Frank Smith, a former senator and chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority was on Friday acquitted of bribery and extortion charges, following a trial that lasted nearly two years.

Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt said there was not a scintilla of evidence to support that there was a meeting between Smith and the virtual complainant, Barbara Hanna, to justify the 13 charges levied against him.

In the nearly two-hour ruling, Ferguson-Pratt said the prosecution relied solely on the testimony of Hanna, who she said had a dishonest disposition. She noted that Hanna repeatedly told the court she felt pressured, used, and gave evidence against her will.

Ferguson-Pratt said she found Hanna to be untruthful when it suits her purpose and was often evasive and inherently inconsistent with her answers during cross-examination.

Ferguson-Pratt said that the two-million-dollar contract Hanna was awarded by Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands, after she claimed she was being extorted by Frank Smith, could have been motivation for Hanna to be untruthful because by Hanna’s own testimony, she was on the brink of financial ruin.

Ferguson also noted that Hanna, after claiming she was being extorted by Smith on three separate occasions, went to Smith through his company, Poland Loans, for personal loans. Those actions, the chief magistrate said, defies reason.

Ferguson-Pratt also noted that each of the nine witness testimonies called by the prosecution conflicted and the witnesses gravely undermined the prosecution’s case.

She said there was no evidence to suggest that Frank Smith assisted Hanna in getting the cleaning contract and there was no evidence to suggest that payments were made to keep the contract.

In her opinion, the chief magistrate said Hanna is not credible, and her evidence was discredited and too full of inconsistencies to be relied on. Therefore, a sufficient case was not made for Frank Smith to answer to the charges.

Ferguson-Pratt called Smith to his feet and told him he was acquitted and was a free man.

The chief magistrate also noted the actions of health minister Dr. Duane Sands and national security minster Marvin Dames, and the role they played in the charges being filed and the second contract awarded to Barbara Hanna.

She said she found some of their actions wholly inappropriate and gave rise to the appearance of political favor.