The commencement of the GYD$600 million fraud trial of former Minister of Public Service, Dr. Jennifer Westford and her former Chief Personnel Officer, Margaret Cummings was short-lived after the prosecutor’s files were in “disarray.”
Following objections by Defence Lawyer, Neil Boston, City Magistrate Judy Latchman gave Police Prosecutor, Neville Jeffers until July 26, 2016 at 9 AM to present to the court copies of the files in proper order before the first witness continues to testify.
Jeffers said he would put together one file “so there will be no confusion” and copy those statements in that order. “That is a sensible approach or we will all perish..Let us sail on even keel,” responded Boston.
The first witness to take the stand was Chief Accountant of the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of the Public Service, Andre Dazzell.
The mismatch of files among the prosecutor, defence team and the magistrate became evident as Dazzell responded to the prosecutor’s questions in laying the foundation for possibly detailed testimony.
Boston suggested that it was the first time that he and his team were hearing that Cummings was Westford’s Confidential Secretary and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Accounts Department of the then Public Service Ministry. “If you are setting a connection between the two, we must know that,” Boston said.
Jeffers responded by saying that it was in page 54 at which time Boston stated that “we are guided by what is served on us. If it is in disarray and if you need some time, we have no objection.” The prosecutor agreed with the defence lawyer’s suggestion, saying that if page 54 was not filed he would like leave to do so.
Boston told the court that, according to witness statement in his possession both pages 54 and 59 refer to Hydar Ally, the then Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry. “You need some time to regularize this or else we will all be in disarray… Please do not take us along a turbulent stream,” he said.
After Magistrate set the date for report and fixture for the continuation of the trial, Cummings and Dazzell exchanged pleasantries including smiles.
The 24 joint charges alleged that between August 2011 and April 2015 they stole GYD$639M from the Government of Guyana. The money was allegedly stolen in 24 different tranches ranging from $3.4M to $75M in one instance.