By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A WITNESS who has known Freddie Solomon Ramsey for 35 years told a jury yesterday that it would be out of character for the former Bahamas Electricity Corporation board member to accept bribes to influence the awarding of contracts.
Charles Johnson, senior manager at J S Johnson Insurance, Agents and Brokers, testified in the Supreme Court yesterday that he and the 79-year-old accused both live in the same community, Eastwood Estates.
Mr Johnson described Ramsey to his attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, as an honest churchgoer and family man.
When asked his thoughts on allegations that French company Alstom SA allegedly paid more than $300,000 to Ramsey to influence the awarding of the DA-11 and DA-12 contracts between 1999 and 2003, Mr Johnson said it would be “completely out of character.”
When cross-examined by Crown prosecutor Garvin Gaskin, Mr Johnson admitted that he did not have first hand knowledge of the allegations concerning the Alstom SA/BEC bribery scheme.
Mr Johnson was Ramsey’s sole defence witness called to give evidence yesterday after the accused exercised his legal right to remain silent instead of giving sworn testimony.
He is currently on trial before Justice Bernard Turner on four counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and 14 counts of bribery allegedly committed between 1999 and 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The allegations are related to a widespread scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes to countries around the world. They were brought to light in 2014 in a US Department of Justice report, which said that Alstom SA allegedly paid more than $300,000 to a BEC board member to influence contracts between 1999 and 2003.
The jury previously heard from Mark Smith, an admitted bribe taker who received immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving testimony. It was revealed in court that Alstom SA had written letters intended for then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and then Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson as the company wanted BEC officials to reconsider the bid it felt was going to be rejected.
The jury also saw a letter Alstom SA received from then BEC Assistant General Manager Patrick Hanna in December 2000, who took issue with the French company’s attempt to discredit another bidder or the evaluation process and noted that the letters “are in direct contravention of the tender process.”
Inspector Deborah Thompson, of the Central Detective Unit, has testified that Ramsey denied having any involvement in the bribe scheme during an interview in which 101 questions were put to him in the presence of his then-lawyers Roger Minnis and Khalil Parker.
Ramsey is on $40,000 bail and is represented by Mr Munroe, Tommel Roker and Bridgette Ward.
Mr Gaskin, acting director of public prosecution, is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Cordell Frazier.
The trial resumes on Friday morning at 11am where Crown and lawyers for the accused will present closing arguments to the jury.