Court hears freeze order on Ash’s bank acc. discharged days before trial start
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The main investigator in the bribery trial of former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson yesterday admitted she and then Deputy Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson reviewed and edited the statement of the prosecution’s key witness, Jonathan Ash, before he signed it in late June, 2017.
Assistant Superintendent Deborah Thompson, who was cross examined by defense attorney Keith Knight, QC, yesterday was shown 17 pages of notes she took from Ash’s verbal statement to police on June 28, 2017.
Under questioning, Thompson confirmed she transformed those notes into a statement for Ash, which he signed on June 30, 2017.
Gibson is on trial for allegedly receiving $280,000 from Ash, a contractor, between January 2017 and March 2017 to induce payments owed to him by the government for cleanup work in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Knight asked Thompson: “So you met to review and edit a statement of Jonathan Ash?”
Thompson replied: “Yes.”
Knight asked: “Did Deputy Commissioner of Police Ferguson have anything else to do with the investigation after the review and edit?”
Thompson answered: “At that point, he reviewed the notes that I took.”
“Was editing done?” Knight continued, holding up a copy of Ash’s statement. “Is this the document you are referring to.”
Thompson answered: “Yes.”
Knight pointed out the 17 pages of notes taken from Ash were dated June 27, 2017 and not June 28.
Thompson conceded she made an error.
Knight confirmed Thompson met Ash again in September 2017.
She acknowledged additional changes were made to his statement, but no additional notation was made to indicate when these amendments were made.
Knight asked: “Have you heard the term further statement? You did not use that. In the statement, you pretended all these statements were taken on the same day.”
Thompson responded: “No, I did not.”
The defense attorney continued: “Why did you have that statement [dated] the 28th of June when you met in September and changes were made?”
Thompson replied: “It was a minor amendment made to the statement and I made a decision to maintain the date.”
Knight suggested this could mislead the defense.
Thompson conceded that it could, but maintained it was a minor amendment.
According to Thompson, the word ‘forego’ was added to Ash’s statement during the September meeting.
Ash testified last month that the word was used during a meeting between he, Bastian and Gibson to indicate the then-minister wanted payments from him.
“It was not in the statement that has been signed on the 30th?” Knight asked.
Thompson replied: “No.”
Knight said: “Was forgo an important part of this case?”
Thompson responded: “Like I said…”
The Queen’s Counsel cut her off and repeated the question.
She answered: “Yes.”
Knight then asked: “Was it an important change?”
Thompson answered: “Yes.”
Knight pointed out: “But you said it was minor.”
The officer maintained it was a minor amendment.
Knight continued: “Ms. Thompson, that word forgo that you said is minor changed the context and content of what took place at that meeting? Isn’t that so? It changed Mr. Ash’s understanding…”
On the stand last month, Ash told the court he understood forgo to mean that he had to give up $250,000 in order to get paid, calling it a “shakedown”.
The defense made the case that when Bastian said forgo during the meeting with Gibson, she meant his bill for cleanup was too high and had to be reduced.
Gibson had charge of the New Providence Reconstruction Unit.
In his interrogation interview at CDU in August 2017, which was played in court Tuesday, Gibson noted the unit believed the rate sheets for work were too high and sought to renegotiate in some instances.
Thompson interviewed Gibson.
The video recording played in court showed Thompson asking Gibson if when he met with Bastian and Ash, it was to ask about the high amount of payments and to determine payments owed.
Gibson said he did not remember, but had always had a concern about the rate sheet.
Yesterday, Knight asked if Thompson knew Ash had been granted immunity around the same time he provided a statement to police accusing Gibson of bribery.
She said she did not, although she knew discussions were being had at the time about the immunity deal.
Knight asked: “You had no idea about the immunity?”
Thompson replied: “I didn’t. I knew we were in discussions.”
Knight continued: “You were in discussions around the same time?”
Thompson responded: “That’s correct.”
Referring to Thompson’s affidavit, Knight asked if she took statements from at least five other individuals, including then-financial secretary Simon Wilson and then-permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Jack Thompson — as indicated by the affidavit.
Thompson told the court that was accurate, except in the instance of a Mr. Rahmon in the Ministry of Works who made a statement under caution.
Under questioning, the investigator conceded she made another mistake in her affidavit when she noted that then-Deputy Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson had handed over a criminal investigation to her.
Knight asked: “Do you recall putting that in your report? Was that a mistake?”
Thompson responded: “Yes, it was.”
Knight asked: “After Ferguson instructed you to commence it, was he further involved?”
Thompson replied: “Yes.”
Authorities executed an order to freeze Ash’s bank account on July 20, 2017.
Knight referred to Thompson’s affidavit in which she swore she was the lead investigator probing Ash’s account for the purpose of identifying public funds fraudulently received.
However, Thompson told the court yesterday the affidavit was drafted by the Office of the Attorney General.
She said she would not have written it that way as it relates to the investigation of the frozen account.
Noting the matter was one of urgency, Thompson said she signed the document, though the investigating of Ash’s account was to determine whether the funds were obtained lawfully.
Knight suggested it was careless to word the affidavit as an investigating of fraudulently receiving public funds.
Thompson refuted it was careless.
“It was timing,” she said.
“I got it late afternoon and it was a matter of emergency. I wouldn’t have written a portion that way. We were investigating money on his account.”
Knight asked if the affidavit was true.
Thompson answered: “To the best of my knowledge it was true.”
“Are you saying it is true?” Knight repeated.
“Yes,” the officer responded.
Knight asked: “Are you now saying it is false?”
Thompson replied: “I am clarifying.”
Knight continued: “Are you now saying it is false?”
Thompson answered: “I would not have used the word fraudulent.”
She added: “I need to know he was entitled to the funds of his account.”
When questioned, Thompson said she was unaware when the freezing order was discontinued.
Knight told the court, the order was discharged on September 20, 2019, days before Ash was slated to give evidence in court.
The trial began on September 24.
Additionally, Thompson admitted she made a retraction to her sworn affidavit on September 13, 2019.
Thompson’s cross examination continues today.