Friday, October 11, 2019
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
BUSINESSMAN Jonathan Ash yesterday denied that he altered a statement he gave to police concerning bribery allegations against former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson, despite previously claiming that he did.
Mr Ash, while being interrogated by lead Crown attorney James Guthrie, QC, contradicted his previous assertions that he personally made "slight changes" to the statement he gave to police against Gibson in 2017.
Mr Ash also denied that his testimony was influenced by a meeting in which a police officer said she would be "cutting out" whatever parts of his and a woman's statements against Gibson that didn't line up.
To that end, Mr Ash also refuted suggestions that a lot of information was "cut out" of his original statement, instead asserting that only "some stuff, minor stuff," like information about his father, was omitted.
According to the evidence, Mr Ash gave a first statement to police on June 28, 2017, and a second statement in September of that year.
During previous proceedings, Mr Ash said he had to give a second statement because "slight changes" were made to his statement. Though he couldn't say how many "slight changes" were made, he said he was the one who made the changes.
At the time, Mr Ash also said that a police detective was the one who decided that the changes needed to be made. He said just himself and the detective were present when the changes were made.
Concerning the meeting itself, the evidence thus far is that Assistant Superintendent Deborah Thompson arranged for a meeting to be held at the Central Detective Unit (CDU) on September 25, 2017 concerning the statements Mr Ash and a woman connected to Gibson--Deborah Bastian -- gave to police against Gibson.
Previously, lead defence attorney Keith Knight, QC, said ASP Thompson indicated that she needed to "iron out" the "ambiguities" in the statements provided by both Mr Ash and Ms Bastian, particularly as it related to the amount of money Mr Ash said he gave Ms Bastian to give to Gibson, which was $200,000.
"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," ASP Thompson is quoted as saying. The officer's quotes were chronicled in a printout of a recording of the meeting in question.
"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," ASP Thompson is further quoted as saying.
ASP Thompson is also quoted as saying: "We need to iron this out because y'all are giving two different accounts as to what transpired leading up to the meeting."
According to the evidence, 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 the former MP using his government position to ensure Mr Ash would be paid the $1m plus he was owed for hurricane clean-up work.
Thus, Mr Knight suggested to Mr Ash that ASP Thompson arranged for that meeting with the express purpose of synchronising his and Ms Bastian's statements to remediate the "ambiguity" surrounding them.
However, Mr Ash said he could not recall whether ASP Thompson called the meeting for that purpose. He acknowledged that there were differences between his statements and that of Ms Bastian, evidenced by him saying: "I said some stuff concerning what happened. Deborah Bastian said some stuff."
However, as he did during Thursday's proceedings, Mr Ash said ASP Thompson called the meeting because "she wanted to know the truth" about what allegedly transpired.
While interrogating Mr Ash yesterday, Mr Guthrie referred to Mr Knight's cross-examination of the witness on the issue, and asked the man if any alterations were made to his statement. Mr Ash replied: "No sir".
Mr Ash went on to say that he had "no idea" that the meeting in question was being recorded, and neither did he know who recorded it.
Gibson is charged with 15 counts of bribery. It is alleged that between January 16 and 19, 2017, and being concerned with 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 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 Bastian, the Crown maintains. The Crown claims Mr Ash initially made the payments to Gibson through Bastian for the first set of payments totaling $200,000, but made them directly to Gibson for the remaining $80,000.
Gibson has denied the allegations.
The case continues on November 11. Gibson's bail continues until that time.