Jurors on Tuesday watched former Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson vigorously deny allegations of bribery in a recorded police interview.
Gibson, 58, was questioned at length by lead investigator ASP Debra Thompson at the Central Detective Unit on August 2, 2017 in the presence of Anthony McKinney, QC, and attorney Owen Wells.
Prosecutors allege that Gibson demanded $250,000 from contractor Jonathan Ash in order to approve the payment of upwards to $1 million owed to him by the government for work associated with cleanup post Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
According to Ash, he paid $280,000 in bribes from January 2017 to March 2017; initially through Deborah Bastian, and then directly to Gibson.
Gibson told Thompson that he had ministerial responsibility for the post-hurricane cleanup but, unlike his other Cabinet portfolios, he had no written job description.
Gibson said the Ministry of Works had heavy duty equipment operators on standby before the hurricane hit to clear thoroughfares. He said he thought the rates set by Ministry of Works were too high, but they were obligated to pay them.
When Thompson asked Gibson if he knew Jonathan Ash, Gibson replied, “Yes, I know him.”
Thompson asked, “How would you describe your relationship or association with Jonathan Ash?”
Gibson said, “I don’t know. If I see Ash we could have a conversation. I met him during this whole process.”
Thompson told Gibson, “I have information that you and Deborah Bastian demanded $250,000 from Jonathan Ash as an inducement to approve his payments.”
Gibson replied, “Absolutely not; emphatically I have never asked him for any money.”
Thompson continued, “I have information that Jonathan Ash met Deborah Bastian at Commonwealth Bank and she collected $50,000 for your benefit, representing partial payment of $250,000.”
Gibson replied, “I cannot speak to what Ash and Deborah did.”
After asking Gibson for the number of his government issued cellphone, Thompson suggested that Gibson, while using the same mobile, solicited “shingles”, as payment from Ash.
Gibson said, “No, I have never asked or demanded any shingles from Ash.”
The prosecution has entered WhatsApp messages between Ash and Gibson. In one of the messages, Gibson asks, “Any shingles today?” Ash has claimed that shingles was Gibson’s code word for cash.
Thompson said, “I have information that while using your government issued cell phone number… you demanded 25 shingles, meaning $25,000 cash, from Jonathan Ash.”
Gibson replied, “No, listen to me. Jonathan Ash wanted to see the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) win the next election. He asked me the names of candidates that he should give donations. Nothing had to do with any personal benefit.”
Gibson continued that he had never asked Ash for money either personally or for the party, but that Ash had offered money for the party.
Thompson suggested that Gibson met Bastian at Lakeview Cemetery where she gave him the bribe money received from Ash.
Gibson acknowledged meeting Bastian “several places” but said those encounters had nothing to do with any money.
Gibson also denied that he told Bastian to get money from Ash for herself.
Thompson asked, “Did you ever receive money from Mr. Ash and if so, what was the reason?”
Gibson replied, “No comment.”
The trial continues today.