By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE trial of five men charged in connection with a multi-million dollar theft scheme at Bahamas Power & Light was yesterday adjourned for two weeks after the deputy chief magistrate declared she was unable to proceed in the matter on the grounds of perception of bias.
At the start of yesterday’s hearing, Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain told Reno Bethel, Che Campbell Chase, James Rueben Dean, Anthony Strachan and Orvano Symonette that she was unable to proceed with the matter due to a possible conflict, and transferred the matter to the chief magistrate. The case was adjourned to April 9.
In August last year, Bethel, a former employee of FirstCaribbean International Bank, was arraigned on 47 fraud-related charges stemming from a BPL investigation. He faced 23 counts of fraud by false pretences, 23 counts of receiving and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false pretences. Approximately two months later, Bethel was arraigned over nearly 100 additional fraud-related charges.
It is alleged that between February 27 and May 5, 2017, Bethel obtained a total of $1,062,330.05 from BPL’s bank account held at Scotiabank while at Royal Bank of Canada on John F Kennedy Drive. It is also alleged that on May 4, 2017, Bethel attempted to defraud BPL of a total of $109,147.80 from its Scotiabank account while at FCIB on JFK Drive.
It is further alleged that between March 30 and April 7, 2017, Bethel converted $200,000 of Bahamian currency to US currency, and transferred it to an account in the Imperial Bank of Canada.
He also allegedly converted $6,500 of Bahamian currency to Canadian currency and transferred it to an account held at TD Canada Trust in Ontario.
It is further alleged that between February 8 and April 20, 2017, Bethel uttered numerous forged Scotiabank cheques totalling $1,496,005.09 from the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s account and made them payable to various entities including Bahamas Crane and Concrete Pumps, KS Civil Engineers, HRT Rentals, Bahamas Industrial Equip Sales and Re, Bahamas Heavy Machinery and Trucking, the Bobcat Specialist, Enviro Tank, and Scuderia Electrical via either RBC or FCIB.
It is also alleged that Bethel was in possession of multiple forged Scotiabank cheques totaling $1,496,005.09, drawn from BEC’s account and made payable to the aforementioned entities.
Bethel pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Shortly after that, Dean, a former BPL employee, and Chase, an attorney, were arraigned over allegations they collectively defrauded the electricity provider of close to $2m over a four-month span last year.
Dean, a former fixed assets officer at BPL, was charged before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt with 42 counts of fraud by false pretences, 11 counts of falsification of accounts, and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.
Chase was charged with seven counts of fraud by false pretences and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.
It is alleged that between both Dean and Chase collectively obtained $1,966,163.85 from BPL’s Scotiabank account while at either FCIB or Royal Bank of Canada on John F Kennedy Drive.
Dean was accused of solely defrauding BPL of $1,752,077.6, while Chase was accused of defrauding BPL of $214,086.25.
It is further alleged that Dean falsified numerous work order codes totalling $670,056.19.
Both Dean and Chase pleaded not guilty.
Strachan was charged with seven counts of fraud by false pretences and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false pretences. It is alleged he defrauded BPL of $214,086.25.
Symonette was charged with defrauding the company of $317,652.50. It is also alleged he attempted to fraudulently obtain $109,147.40 from FCIB on May 4, 2017. Symonette also faced four counts of possession of forged cheques drawn on BEC’s bank account and made payable to Bahamas Industrial Equip Sales and Re, BN Backhoe Trucking and Island Site Development and presenting those forged cheques.