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Court hears of Ash’s changed police statement    

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Debra Thompson was yesterday grilled over a change of businessman Jonathan Ash’s account of his first meeting with former Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson, whom he allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to.

Gibson, 58, has denied that he demanded $250,000 from Ash in order to expedite approvals for payments for work his company had done regarding the cleanup after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Ash’s company was responsible for the removal of debris and the maintenance of three dumpsites.

The government owed Ash over $1 million when he met with Gibson and government official Deborah Bastian in January 2017 about the non-payment, according to the prosecution’s case.

Following that meeting, Bastian allegedly asked Ash for $250,000 for Gibson.

During cross-examination, lead defense lawyer K. D. Knight, QC, suggested that the alteration to the statement was crucial as it changed the context of Ash’s initial meeting with Gibson and Bastian over his unpaid bills.

Thompson admitted to composing three statements on Ash’s behalf in his absence following their initial meeting on June 27, 2017.

Thompson said that she converted the 17 pages of handwritten notes that she had made during the meeting with Ash into a typewritten statement on June 28, 2017.

Ash signed the statement, which Thompson had composed in his absence, on June 30, the court heard.

In September 2017, Thompson added that Ash had been asked to forego a payment, the court heard.

Although the change was made months later, the statement was still dated June 28, 2017, the court heard.

She explained, “I maintained the June 28 date because the changes to the statement were minor.”

Knight pressed, “Why did you not do a further statement?”

Thompson said, “It was a minor alteration.”

Knight said, “The word forego is an important part of this case?”

Thompson agreed.

Knight asked, “So it was an important change?”

Thompson replied, “Yes.”

Knight asked, “That word, forego, that you said was minor, changed the context and content of what took place at that meeting, is that so?”

Thompson replied, “It explained what happened.”

Thompson also revealed that Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson ordered the release from custody of Gibson’s uncharged alleged co-conspirator, Bastian.

Prosecutors allege that Bastian, who worked closely with Gibson at the National Recovery and Reconstruction Unit (NRRU), which was set up to assist with the cleanup after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, collected $200,000 in bribes from Ash on Gibson’s behalf to facilitate his payment for work done as part of the cleanup.

In response to a question from Knight, Thompson said that Ash was not arrested during the probe into the bribery allegations.

The trial continues today before Justice Carolita Bethell and a nine-member jury.

James Guthrie, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin, Terry Archer and Destiny McKinney make up the prosecution team.

Damian Gomez, QC, Philip McKenzie and Owen Wells appear with Knight for Gibson.

Artesia Davis

Senior Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.
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