National Security minister testifies in Frank Smith extortion trial

National Security minister testifies in Frank Smith extortion trial
Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames. (FILE PHOTO)

A heated cross-examination between defense attorney Keith Knight, QC, and Minister of National Security Marvin Dames Tuesday afternoon, in the continuing extortion trial of former Member of Parliament (MP) and Senator Frank Smith.

Smith is accused of extorting $60,000 from Barbara Hanna, whose cleaning company was given a contact to service the Critical Care Unit of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), when Smith was chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).

An agitated Knight urged Dames not to “imagine further questions”, while Dames continued to defend himself during questioning about the reasons why he met with the cleaning company owner, instead of referring her immediately to police for questioning.

“Would you agree that a minister involved in a police matter could be seen as political interference?” Knight asked

To that question, Dames answered, “Correct.”

Only a day prior to Dames’ cross-examination, Dames had amended his statement made by police back in June of last year.

While the court didn’t reveal what was amended, Dames said, the first statement ‘wasn’t as he recalled it to be’, as it was written by an officer.

Dames revealed that he had only met Hanna once in person at his Mount Moriah constituency office, after his colleague, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, told him she wanted to see him.

Dames said he had later learned by Dr. Sands that Hanna had a concern involving corruption.

Knight revealed to the courtroom that a call log entered into evidence showed that Dames had called Hanna 13 times after meeting with her in person last year:

  • June 6 – three times
  • June 8 – twice
  • June 9 – five times
  • June 20 – three times

“You called her 13 times. You were so anxious to reach her,” Knight asked.

Dames pressed that the calls he made were “attempted” phone calls that were no longer than a few seconds long.

Dames also noted he was trying to get Hannah in contact with Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle because Rolle couldn’t reach her.

“The role of the National Security is a 24/7 job – I had a citizen who ‘desperately’ wanted to meet with me,” Dames responded to Knight, as he asked why the minister needed to know more.

Last month when Hannah gave her testimony she noted she was contacted by Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle, while also holding true to her stance that she had to testify against her will and felt she was “being used”.

Also under cross-examination was Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle – the officer who Dames noted  he referred Hanna to after meeting with her.

While it was a brief questioning, Rolle revealed that Dames was in fact the person who assisted in putting him in contact with Hanna.