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‘I was instructed to tell police I was a contractor’, says witness in Manchester MC trial

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'I was instructed to tell police I was a contractor', says witness in Manchester MC trial

MANDEVILLE, ManchesterCross-examination at the Manchester Municipal Corporation multi-million dollar fraud trial on Thursday revealed that one of the persons who took the stand as a witness intentionally misinformed investigators during the probe for allegations of misappropriation of funds that started in 2016. A young woman, who said she is a friend of accused Sanja Elliott, told one of the defence attorneys, Norman Godfrey, and the prosecution that some of the information given in a statement to the police was inaccurate, because she was following the instructions of Elliott. Elliott is a former deputy superintendent of Road and Works at the Municipal Corporation and one of eight accused on trial. There were reports of the witness stating that she had at times hired men to do work in the capacity as a contractor for the Corporation. When Godfrey asked her whether specific sections of the report he brought to her attention are true or not her frequent response was “no, it’s not”. The court heard of workmen she claimed to employ but did not, payments to them that were never made, invoices giving the impression that she had a water truck or facilitated water delivery in the parish as a Municipal Corporation contractor and that was not the case. The witness told Godfrey that she gave inaccurate information in sections of the report to the police, though signing the statement that it was true and correct. She disclosed that Elliott had told her about a month prior to her giving the statement, that if anyone asked about her role with the Corporation, she should say she did beautification work and was employed as a contractor. “He’s a friend,” she said, as she responded to the prosecution about why she complied with Elliott‘s instruction. The witness showed signs of breaking down as she uttered the words but quickly regained her composure and continued her testimony. Each time the misinformation in the statement was pointed out to her she said it was in an effort to adhere to Elliott‘s instruction to her. “(It was) a follow-up of what I was instructed to say by Sanja,” she said. The witness told the prosecution that her evidence on the first day of testimony on Wednesday was all true. She stated then that she encashed some forty cheques in her name, totalling about $15 million, drawn on the account of the Corporation, for work she did not do. Godfrey, who is the defence attorney for Elliott, asked her why she did not reveal the information about cashing the cheques in the statement to the police, she said she was not asked. Another witness took the stand on Thursday and mentioned that she had also cashed cheques in her name for work not done. She, however, didn’t mention any affiliation with any of the accused now on trial. She said she gave her uncle her full name and Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) on his request and thereafter started collecting and encashing cheques drawn on the account of the Corporation for him. She did not say if her uncle has ever worked at the Manchester Municipal Corporation. To date, at least three witnesses have admitted to encashing cheques drawn on the account of the Corporation, without doing work for the entity. A representative from the Integrity Commission (formerly the Office of the Contractor General), one of the organisations instrumental in the arrests and charges for the fraud allegation, was among witnesses who took the stand on Thursday. He will be continuing his testimony today. Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, was present during the trial on Thursday, the second time, since it began earlier this month. -Alicia Sutherland


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