By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Jamaican woman at the heart of a rape allegation involving a senior immigration officer allegedly admitted to paying her would-be husband $2,000 to marry her, according to a police interview of the accused.
Norman Bastian, in his December 2014 interrogation, claimed Claudia Edwards Bethel paid Mario Bethel to enter into a fake marriage, with their vows exchanged shortly after she first arrived in The Bahamas in early 2010.
Additionally, Mr Bastian said Mrs Bethel admitted to him that she engaged in prostitution, and had clients that would “pick her up from work”; they would never go to her apartment near the old Road Traffic Department in Oakes Field.
Mr Bastian also said Mrs Bethel admitted to “dancing” at Charms Club, the place she first met her now-estranged husband in 2010, although she previously claimed while giving sworn testimony that she worked there as a waitress.
The evidence was given in Mrs Bethel’s civil suit against the government after her rape case was tossed out of court years ago. Mr Bastian was never convicted of the offence.
He denies the rape and maintains the sex was consensual, claiming it was initiated by Mrs Bethel.
According to Mr Bastian’s record of interview (ROI), which was read into evidence, after being arrested by police following a raid at the Twilight Bar on December 13, 2014, Mrs Bethel was ultimately admitted to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre (CDRC) because she was unable to confirm her status in the country.
Mr Bastian said at some point he told Mrs Bethel he would keep her on that Sunday to interview her and that he would see if they could have her released.
Sometime between December 12 and 13, 2014, Mr Bastian said he got a call from Mr Bethel, who verified that Mrs Bethel was his wife and that she had lost her resident spousal permit on the beach while they were together. Mr Bastian said when he asked Mr Bethel where they lived, the husband said Sunshine Park. However, Mr Bastian said Mrs Bethel had told him that she lived in an apartment on Moss Street near the Clarence A Bain building.
Mr Bastian said he subsequently asked Mr Bethel to bring a passport to the CRDC and that he would speak to both him and his wife while there. However, he said Mr Bethel nor the passport ever showed up.
Mr Bastian said he subsequently spoke to Assistant Director of Immigration Dwight Beneby, as well as the director of immigration, and told them about the discrepancies in Mr and Mrs Bethel’s claims and of his suspicions that their marriage was one of convenience.
Mr Bastian further claimed that Mrs Bethel said after she lost her spousal permit, she went to the Grove Police Station to report it, but never got a report. However, he said, she told him she went to the Department of Immigration’s headquarters on Hawkins Hill and a brown-skinned woman got her a copy of the original and gave it to her.
Mr Bastian said he again communicated with his seniors and they all decided to interview Mrs Bethel along the lines of her marriage being one of convenience before opting to reissue her any immigration documents.
Around 1pm on December 15, 2014, Mr Bastian said he spoke with Mr Beneby who told him he would order a release for Mrs Bethel and that he should bring her back to immigration headquarters. As he had no female officer with him, Mr Bastian said he went to McDonald’s downtown and retrieved his friend Marsha Curry.
According to the evidence, Mr Beneby made the call for Mrs Bethel not only to be released, but to be released specifically to Mr Bastian.
Mr Bastian said he and Ms Curry then went to the CRDC and got Mrs Bethel. After stopping by a mechanic in the area to have a part replaced on his truck, he headed back to Hawkins Hill immigration office. Before arriving there, he said he dropped Ms Curry off on Montrose Avenue.
Mr Bastian said when he went to the office sometime around 5pm, a security guard told him Mr Beneby had already left. He said he decided to conduct the interview in Mr Beneby’s absence.
Mr Bastian said when he first interviewed her, Mrs Bethel told him she was a bartender at the Twilight Bar.
He said when he questioned Mrs Bethel about the other girls who were arrested with her, she confirmed that they were prostitutes.
According to Mr Bastian, Mrs Bethel said the girls had an arrangement with a man named “Akeem”, the man in charge of the club. She said pursuant to the arrangement, the girls would not take off their clothes, but would lift up whatever they were wearing and gave patrons a lap dance for $5.
Mrs Bethel said if a customer wanted to take any of the women out of the club, that customer would have to pay $20. Mr Bastian said Mrs Bethel also told him that the girls would have to pay Akeem $20 when they reported to work.
Mr Bastian said Mrs Bethel told him she had worked for Akeem for two years as a bartender making $150 per week. He said when he asked her how she managed to meet her expenses with $150, she replied by saying that some weeks she would make $200 with tips.
Mr Bastian said when he asked her how long she had been in the Bahamas up to that point, she said four years. And she said she was married for four years, Mr Bastian’s ROI said.
Mrs Bethel had previously testified that she first arrived in the Bahamas in 2010. In February of that year, she said she got married to Mr Bethel, then a manager at Charms club.
However, when she was profiled by police officers after being arrested at the Twilight Bar following the late night/early morning raid, she said she arrived into the country in 2011.
Concerning her interview with Mr Bastian, the senior immigration officer said when he asked her to tell him the truth, if she ever danced in the Bahamas, she replied in the affirmative, and said it happened at the Charms club where she met Mr Bethel.
Mr Bastian also said Mrs Bethel admitted to engaging in prostitution, and that she had clients that would pick her up from work; they would never go to her apartment. Mr Bastian said when he asked Mrs Bethel why she didn’t say those things to officers at the Central Detective Unit (CDU), she said she didn’t because she recognised a police officer at CDU who worked for Akeem.
Mr Bastian said Mrs Bethel also told him that she was afraid of going back to Jamaica because a man there was waiting to kill her. Conversely, he said she told him that she felt “safe” with him.
After the interview, Mr Bastian said the two went riding. Along the way, he purchased a bottle of red wine, which he said Mrs Bethel requested.
What happened next were the events that are the subject of scrutiny —Mrs Bethel claiming Mr Bastian raped her and forced her to commit oral sex after lying in wait for her in his bed naked, and him claiming she bluntly asked for sex after pulling down her pants and showing him the tattoos on her buttocks.
Meanwhile, Leonard Smith, a senior immigration officer formerly with oversight of the CRDC admitted it was “unusual” for Mrs Bethel to have been released into Mr Bastian’s exclusive custody.
However, Mr Smith said he did not find it “abnormal” that Mrs Bethel was specifically released to his fellow senior immigration officer, as those were the instructions he got from Mr Beneby and he had no business questioning them.
Mr Smith said he could not speak to why Mr Beneby issued those instructions, much less why Mr Bastian was specifically chosen to “receive” Mrs Bethel after her release.
“He might have been giving her a ride,” Mr Smith said.
The matter continues today before Justice Indra Charles.