By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SENIOR police officer yesterday confirmed that she wanted to clear up the “ambiguities” contained in a businessman’s and a former female suspect’s statements about allegations of bribery against former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson.
Assistant Superintendent Debra Thompson, taking the witness stand before Justice Carolita Bethel, admitted to wanting to do away with any ambivalence contained in Jonathan Ash’s and Deborah Bastian’s respective statements against the former parliamentarian.
The officer’s admission follows evidence that she arranged a meeting with Mr Ash and Ms Bastian to “iron out” the “ambiguities” in their statements, particularly as it related to the amount of money Mr Ash said he gave Ms Bastian to give to Gibson, which was $200,000.
The evidence previously alleged that ASP Thompson told the pair, in the presence of their attorneys, that she would be “cutting out a lot” of whatever the two didn’t agree on concerning allegations against the former labour minister.
Yesterday, ASP Thompson said Ms Bastian, who, according to the evidence thus far, acted as the middle-woman between Mr Ash and Gibson, and who the Crown has said it does not intend to call as a witness against Gibson, was originally interviewed as a suspect.
And that came after a senior manager at Commonwealth Bank revealed that Ms Bastian refused to present her identification and sign for a $20,000 cheque Mr Ash authorised to be made out to her - allegedly on Gibson’s behalf - because she didn’t go to the bank for that purpose, but instead to pick up a “package”.
Taking the witness stand yesterday, ASP Thompson said she first became involved in the matter on June 27, 2017. She said two days earlier, she attended a meeting called by police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson, during which she was told she would be a member of a team that was investigating allegations of bribery.
ASP Thompson said she was not told who the bribery allegations were made by, nor against, however.
ASP Thompson said on June 27 of that year, she went to a meeting with Mr Ash and his attorneys at the Central Detective Unit (CDU). She said she did not know who Mr Ash was at the time nor how he came to be at CDU that day.
Nonetheless, during the meeting, ASP Thompson said Mr Ash gave a “brief overview” of the allegations against Gibson and explained certain details about the Hurricane Matthew cleanup efforts in which he was involved.
ASP Thompson said the following day, June 28, Mr Ash returned to CDU with his attorneys Alicia Bowe and James Thompson, and she consequently took “comprehensive notes” of what was said. The officer said the information Mr Ash gave was “very comprehensive and detailed”, as he outlined in detail his various responsibilities during the hurricane clean-up efforts.
ASP Thompson said at the end of that meeting, she invited Mr Ash to return to sign off on his statement. However, there was none for him to sign at the time. Nonetheless, ASP Thompson said she typed up a statement based on the notes she took that day, and on June 30, Mr Ash returned to the station, read his statement and signed it.
ASP Thompson also said she interviewed Ms Bastian on more than one occasion.
ASP Thompson said on July 1, 2017, she interviewed Ms Bastian as a suspect, and on July 4 she again met with the woman, as a suspect, and took a statement under caution. After that, she said she took a conversion statement from the woman.
Sometime after that, ASP Thompson said another officer, Inspector McCartney, took other witness statements from the woman. Those statements, as well as the ones she took from Ms Bastian, were consequently consolidated into one document on July 25.
Months later, on September 25 of that year, ASP Thompson said she had the opportunity to meet with both Mr Ash and Ms Bastian together, with their respective lawyers. And although she did not delve into the details of that meeting yesterday, ASP Thompson admitted that she called the meeting to “clear up some ambiguities”.
During previous proceedings, lead defence attorney Keith Knight, QC, read a transcript of a recording of the meeting in question, in which he quoted ASP Thompson as saying during the meeting: “Listen Mr Ash, you go through and give an overview or summary of what you told us transpired and if there’s anything you don’t agree with, with what he’s saying Ms Bastian, you let us know.
“...Then I want you to explain to him what you (Ms Bastian) told us, and if there’s anything you don’t agree with, you let us know so we could clear this up.”
Mr Knight also quoted ASP Thompson as saying: “We need to iron this out because ya’ll are giving two different accounts as to what transpired leading up to the meeting.”
ASP Thompson was referring to the meeting Mr Ash, Ms Bastian, and Gibson had at a “pink building” on Nassau Street that ultimately caused Mr Ash to make payments to Ms Bastian, allegedly on Gibson’s behalf, and later directly to Gibson, in exchange for him using his government position to ensure Mr Ash would be paid the $1m plus he was owed for hurricane clean-up work.
Concerning the situation with Ms Bastian at the bank, Denisia Aranha, Commonwealth Bank’s assistant manager of operations, testified that on February 1, 2017, she received instructions from Mr Ash via phone to deduct his account of $20,000 to purchase a cashier’s cheque made payable to Ms Bastian.
After securing a second signature, Ms Aranha said she took what she called a “debit advice”, an instrument for bank officers to debit an account upon request, to a teller for that employee to prepare the cheque for Ms Bastian.
The cheque was prepared as requested, and the teller subsequently asked Ms Bastian to present her ID and ultimately sign for the cheque as per bank protocol. However, Ms Aranha said Ms Bastian refused to present her ID and sign for the cheque because she said that wasn’t “what she came there for”.
Ms Aranha said she then told the woman that if she didn’t present her ID and sign for the funds, they would not be released to her. But Ms Bastian still refused to cooperate.
Ms Aranha said Ms Bastian then called Mr Ash and told him she would not sign the cheque because she didn’t go to the bank for that, but that she instead went to retrieve a “package”.
Ms Aranha said Ms Bastian subsequently handed her the phone, at which time she told Mr Ash that if Ms Bastian was not prepared to sign the cheque, the transaction would be cancelled. Ms Aranha said she ultimately instructed the teller to reverse the transaction.
In response to questions by defence attorney Damian Gomez, QC, Ms Aranha said that Mr Ash referred to Ms Bastian as his “aunty”, and that he told her that Ms Bastian desperately had to get the funds because he needed the woman to pay some people on his behalf.
Gibson is charged with 15 counts of bribery. It is alleged that between January 16 and 19, 2017, and being concerned with Ms Bastian, he had solicited more than $200,000 from Mr Ash as an inducement to or a reward for him giving assistance or using his influence in approving outstanding payments owed to Mr Ash by the government.
The Crown further asserts that on various dates between January 19-31, 2017, Gibson, still concerned with Ms Bastian, consequently accepted $100,000 worth of payments from Mr Ash. Then between January 30 and February 28 of that year, Gibson accepted several cash payments from Mr Ash totalling some $100,000.
Between February 10 and March 27, 2017, Gibson solicited and accepted a total of $80,000 each from Ash, but this time he was not concerned with Ms Bastian, the Crown maintains. The Crown claims Mr Ash made the initial payments of $200,000 to Gibson through Ms Bastian and directly paid Gibson the remaining $80,000.
Gibson has denied the allegations.
The case continues today.