THE CHIEF prosecution witness in the Frank Smith extortion and bribery trial became agitated yesterday during cross-examination by the defence, with several aspects of her statement of account being called into question.
Barbara Hanna, the prosecution’s lead witness in the case, often stood flustered and at several points expressed her displeasure with the line of questioning she faced from the defence lead attorney, Keith Knight QC.
She was repeatedly asked by Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt to answer questions directly, and was also advised that the court would be asked to consider the “live issue of credibility”.
Mr Knight submitted as evidence a loan dispersement form bearing Mrs Hanna’s signature and that of her son Adrian Hanna, and a copy of a cheque made out to Adrian that had also been signed by the pair.
Mrs Hanna confirmed she recognized both signatures; however, repeatedly insisted she had not taken a loan from Mr Smith.
Mr Knight read from a transcript of November 30 testimony where Mrs Hanna states she didn’t sign a document with Adrian Hanna, and never did any business or loan with him. Mr Knight also questioned why Mrs Hanna recognized her son’s testimony today but told the court previously she did not know his signature, and had not seen it before.
After repeat attempts by Mr Knight to get a clear answer from Mrs Hanna, Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt interjected and allowed Mrs Hanna an opportunity to explain herself.
Mrs Hanna said told the court she signed for the loan with Adrian because Frank Smith told her to. She said Adrian had lost his government job and was unable to do a salary deduction.
“Because he was no longer working I signed as a owner to say I will be responsible, my duty was to take the cash money. Mr Smith spoke to me and asked me to sign on behalf of Adrian. (Adrian) worked for me part time so I would be fully responsible.”
Mrs Hanna said she made one trip to Pouland Ltd each month to pay off that loan, and the alleged payment.
When asked whether Mrs Hanna truly accepted and agreed to the loan she signed for, she replied: “you’re not going to trap me, I already explained it and you keep coming back to it.” Mr Knight asked whether she felt it was dishonest to enter into the agreement under such pretense, to which she replied, she did not agree.
Mr Knight continued: “Whatever the arrangement, you and your son went to Pouland Ltd to conclude a borrowing arrangement at a time when you say you were paying $5,000 p/m to the accused?
Mrs Hanna said: “No sir.”
Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt asked Mr Knight to repeat his question to ensure Mrs Hanna understood what was being asked. When asked a second time, Mrs Hanna again denied and said she understood the question.
However, the key moment during yesterday’s proceedings came when Mrs Hanna indicated that she, in the lead up to the trial, had met with police investigators outside of the timeframes already disclosed to the court.
Mrs Hanna had previously said her only statement of account was given on July 3 to Police Superintendent Huel Johnson.
However, in response to questions yesterday, Mrs Hanna said subsequent to her statement of account, she met with Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle, the officer-in-charge of the RBPF’s Anti-Corruption Unit, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes.
She also said she was unable to recall the exact date of her meeting with ACP Rolle.
The defence requested a transcript of that meeting, however, the prosecution said it was unaware the meeting had taken place.
Mr Knight protested the fact, and again stressed that due to the nature of the case, both the court and the defence should have been made aware of the meeting.
He stressed the information discussed within that meeting could stand as critical, given the specifics of the case to date - one in which Mrs Hanna stated on record that she felt as if she was being “used” to testify in the matter.
Last November, during a similar line of questioning, Mrs Hanna said while she could not say exactly who was using her, she felt she was at a “disadvantage” by testifying in the trial.
She expressed her disdain for being involved in the matter by repeatedly saying “I don’t want to be here” while seated in the witness box.
Mrs Hanna stressed she was not the one who pursued the charges against Smith and did not go to the police willingly concerning the initial investigation.
She also said she felt “frustrated” and “uncomfortable” by the many calls she received from police requesting she come in for questioning concerning Smith’s charges. And although she said she ultimately went to police, she admitted while being cross-examined by an attorney for the accused that she felt pressured to do so.
Smith is facing 15 criminal charges concerning his alleged solicitation of $65,000 in bribes from a woman he is said to have assisted in getting a contract. He is currently out on $50,000 bail.
It is alleged that Smith, between April 2016 and April 2017, in respect of his duties as a public officer, demanded and obtained $5,000 per month from Barbara Hanna, knowing he was not lawfully authorised to do so.
He is also alleged to have attempted to extort another $5,000 from Ms Hanna in May of this year.
Concerning the bribery charge, it is alleged that he solicited $5,000 a month from Ms Hanna for aiding her in getting a contract with the Public Hospitals Authority.
Smith pleaded not guilty to all the allegations during his arraignment.
The matter resumes today at 10am.