A businessman testified Tuesday that he personally paid former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson $80,000 in bribes to speed up payments for work done in the cleanup after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Jonathan Ash said the five direct bribe payments to Gibson were made during secret meetings at the gun range and Baha Mar Boulevard between February and March 2017.
The breakdown of those payments was $25,000, $25,000, $10,000, $10,000 and $10,000.
Ash testified he paid $200,000 in bribes to Gibson’s associate, Deborah Bastian, before he started making the payments directly to Gibson.
Ash’s anticipated testimony began at 3 p.m. as lawyers spent most of the day locked in closed-session arguments before Justice Carolita Bethell.
Ash was dressed the part of a successful businessman in a blue European cut suit and black Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
Ash testified that he started making the bribe payments to Bastian shortly after a January 2017 meeting with Gibson and Bastian at a “pink building on Meeting Street”.
He said the meeting came about because the government had failed to settle bills of between $850,000 and $1.5 million for post-hurricane work at five dumpsites and in Centreville.
Ash recalled, “I started to get li’l vex. They began to owe me money. I see my money start to drain down.”
Ash was forced to pay his workforce of about 100 men with his own money, the court heard.
During the meeting, Ash said Gibson told him that he (Gibson) was in charge of the payouts, with responsibility for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Ash recalled, “I told him I was owed some monies; I needed to be paid.”
Ash said he was stunned when Bastian blurted out, “Tell him (Gibson) you gave Rahmin money too.”
Ash testified, “I was stunned. I didn’t come to expose no one. I just wanted to get paid.”
Lead Prosecutor James Guthrie, QC, asked Ash if he gave Rahmin, a chief engineer at the Ministry of Works, money.
Ash replied, “I wouldn’t lie, I gave him money.”
Ash said after this revelation, Gibson smiled, left the room and told them, “Y’all two talk.”
Immediately following this meeting, Ash said he withdrew $25,000 from the bank and got another $25,000 in cash from his home before he passed the money to Bastian in the parking lot of Commonwealth Bank on Nassau Street.
Guthrie asked, “What happened the following day?”
Ash said, “I got a check for $250,000.”
Guthrie asked, “How did you get that check?”
Ash replied, “Miss Bastian gave me that check at the NEMA building in Penn’s Building Square.”
Ash said that he received several checks from Bastian from January 17 to 21, 2017.
Guthrie asked, “Did you make any further payments?”
He replied, “I did make other payments to Bastian. In total, I gave her $200,000.”
Ash alleged that he sometimes saw Bastian and Gibson together at Prospect Ridge and the six-legged roundabout after he made the bribe payments.
Guthrie asked, “Did you ever communicate directly with the defendant, Mr. Gibson?”
Ash said they communicated face-to-face and through WhatsApp calls and messages.
Ash said, “He told me he wanted some shingles.”
“What did you understand that to mean?”
Ash replied, “Shingles is cash.”
Ash continues his testimony today.
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