Gibson’s associate did not say money was for minister
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Jonathan Ash, the contractor who claims he gave former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson bribe money, yesterday testified he was still being paid by the government for outstanding payments.
On the stand, Ash further stated that when Gibson’s associate Deborah Bastian asked him for $250,000 to expedite payments owed to him, she did not say the money was for Gibson.
The contractor said he assumed the money was for Gibson.
The defense continued its cross examination of the contractor during the eighth day of the trial in the Supreme Court before Justice Carolita Bethel and a nine-member jury.
Gibson, 58, who had ministerial responsibility for the National Recovery and Reconstruction Unit (NRRU) following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, has been accused of bribing Ash between mid-January 2017 to the end of March 2017.
Ash has testified that he paid Bastian $200,000 on Gibson’s behalf, and $80,000 directly to Gibson in secret meetings.
He claimed the bribe payments began almost immediately after he met Gibson and Bastian at a “pink building on Meeting Street”.
Ash claimed he was referred to Bastian by Jack Thompson, the then permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, after complaining to him about the government’s failure to pay him for cleanup work on five dumpsites and in Centreville.
Quoting a previous witness statement Ash made to authorities, Gibson’s lead attorney Keith Knight, QC, said: “Ms. Bastian said, ‘I need $250,000 and I told her she got to be joking and I picked up my cellular phone to call my daddy, and she told me I cannot use my phone in here’. You said that?”
Ash replied: “I said that, but I corrected that in my second statement.”
Knight asked: “…Earlier on you said you didn’t say that. What you said earlier on was that she said I need $250,000 for Mr. Gibson. Is that what you said?”
Ash replied: “Yes, concerning my second statement.”
Knight asked: “Do you see that here in this statement I just gave you?”
Ash responded: “I have two statements.”
Knight asked again: “Did you see in this statement, ‘I need $250,000 for Mr. Gibson’? You see that here?”
Ash replied: “Not in that statement.”
Knight continued: “In that second statement did you ever say ‘Ms. Bastian said I need $250,000 for Mr. Gibson. Did you ever say that?”
Ash replied: “If it’s in my second statement, I said yes.”
The contractor added: “I was thinking it meaning that the money was for Mr. Gibson. It’s in my statement.”
Knight asked: “What did Bastian say?”
Ash replied: “She said to me that the payment was for Mr. Gibson. I said that at the time I was giving my statement.”
Knight continued: “Did you ever say that Ms. Bastian told you ‘I need $250,000 for Mr. Gibson’? Did you ever record that?
Ash replied: “I corrected that. Yes. In wording maybe not, but in context, yes.”
Knight asked: “What do you mean by that? I don’t like the maybe and the so and so. Did you put it that Bastian said ‘I need $250,000 for Mr. Gibson’?”
Ash responded: “Not the exact words.”
“What words did you use?” Knight asked.
Ash replied: “In my second statement I said this after I came from that meeting… I was in the parking lot and I assumed…”
“You assumed?” Knight interjected.
Ash replied: “After I came out that meeting, I was in the parking lot. She said ‘I need $250,000 in order to receive your payment’. So, at that point, I understand — ain no one had to tell me anything else — I understand in order for me to get paid, Mr. Gibson have to be paid. That’s what I was saying in that statement.”
Knight asked: “…Did she say she needed $250,000 in order for you to get paid? Did she say that?”
Ash replied: “Yes, she said she need $250,000.”
“For what?” Knight asked.
Ash responded: “Forgo.”
Knight told the contractor: “No Mr. Ash. You’re not driving a truck now. You’re not going over me. Did she say she $250,000 in order for you to get paid? Did she say that?”
Ash replied: “Not in those exact words.”
Knight asked: “Not in that exact words. What are the exact words?”
Ash responded: “Forgo $250,000.”
“For what?” the defense attorney asked.
Ash replied: “I assume in my mind.”
Knight went out: “Did she say for what purpose?”
Ash replied: “I say I assume. She just say she need $250,000.”
Knight added, “No, you said forgo. What did she say? When she said forgo, what did she say?”
Ash replied: “I have to give up $250,000. They had a lot of money for me at that time. In order for me to receive my money, in the month of January 2017, I had to payout this money. That’s what I believe. I can’t say what she believe. I only could speak for me.”
Knight asked: “Did she explain to you, forgo?”
Ash claimed Bastian did not, but he believed he had to forgo the money in order to be paid, calling it a “shakedown”.
He claimed after he paid the first $50,000 to Bastian – the same day he met the government official and Gibson – he subsequently received a series of cheques for the more than $1 million owed to him at the time.
Ash was paid $5.4 million between January 2017 and April 2017.
Knight asked if Ash knew the difference between ‘I need $250,000’ and ‘I need it for so and so’, before asserting that the contractor was lying. However, Ash insisted he was telling the truth.
He said: “It’s the truth. The record speaks for itself. The WhatsApp messages speak for itself. Any shingles today, speaks for itself. I am not lying sir. It happened.”
Under cross on Thursday, the defense said the word was used in the literal sense and it was never used for money as Ash has alleged.
However, Ash did not concede that when Bastian allegedly asked the contractor to forgo $250,000, she meant his bill for cleanup work was too high and had to be reduced.
Ash insisted he was never asked to reduce his bills.
Ash also claimed he still had outstanding bills and was still being paid by the government.
Knight asserted: “Was it that your bill was reduced by $250,000?”
Ash replied: “…Ain nothing was short changed. Whatever I submitted, they paid… based on the agreements.”
Knight asked: “You got all your payments?”
Ash replied: “I still have some payments outstanding?”
Knight then asked: “You still being paid?”
Ash replied: “Yes sir.”
Knight again addressed the close relationship Ash and Gibson appeared to have.
He read extracts of WhatsApp messages after the general election with Ash commiserating that Gibson lost his seat and the party had been defeated.
The case continues Tuesday.