Munroe to jury: Reject mindset blacks are crooked
Wayne Munroe, QC, urged jurors in the Fred Ramsey bribery trial yesterday to reject the mindset that “black people [are] crooked” and to look carefully at what he said are “irregularities” in evidence presented.
Ramsey, a former Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) board member, is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for using his influence to swing contracts to a foreign company.
Ramsey has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery at his trial before Justice Bernard Turner.
He stands accused of providing confidential board information to officials of ABB Generacion, now known as Alstom Power, or using his influence to swing the awarding of contracts in their favor.
Munroe suggested Ramsey’s alleged accomplice Mark Smith, who testified that he and Ramsey set up a consultancy agreement with ABB to keep its officials apprised about BEC board meetings, should not be believed.
He also suggested the prosecution is unable to state definitively whether Ramsey did in fact use influence.
“You tell a big story, you disregard the facts, and you think people will rush to judgment without paying attention,” Munroe said.
“Fortunately for Mr. Ramsey, there is more than one set of eyes looking at these papers. And when you go to deliberate, there will be nine sets of eyes looking at these papers. You are the judges of the facts.”
Munroe was speaking to the nine-member jury who, on Monday, will receive the case and make a determination as to Ramsey’s guilt.
Munroe suggested people might assume that because The Bahamas cabinet chose one company over another, “there must be crookedness related to money involved”, but that’s not the case.
“What is shocking, ladies and gentlemen, we like to think that black people [are] crooked. That’s our history. It is ingrained in us,” he said.
“Nice white people don’t do that; only black people corrupt. That’s a mindset we have. It’s a bad mindset, but it’s a mindset.”
Munroe advised the jury to use its “18 eyes” to look at the evidence and its “nine brains” to ponder it, and note the “irregular things”.
BEC’s board had favored ABB’s South Korean competitor but, according to the evidence, former deputy prime minister Frank Watson suspended the board’s decision after he was allegedly approached by Ramsey.
Cabinet overruled the board’s decision after the board members were summoned to defend their position.
Smith testified that his deceased father’s company, Burnside International, received a payment of $600,00 for its role in procuring the contract.
Smith said the money was split into thirds and Ramsey’s cut was deposited into his U.S. bank account.
The prosecution has argued that Ramsey abused his position of power.
The matter first came to light in 2014 when the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Alstom agreed to pay $772 million in fines to resolve allegations that is bribed high ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects.