September 17, 2021

Guilty verdict in Bahamas bribery trial

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fred_ramsey6By Artesia Davis Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter From Caribbean News Now

NASSAU, Bahamas — A Bahamas Supreme Court jury wasted little time on Tuesday before convicting Fred Ramsey on 14 counts, finding that the former Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) board member took several hundred thousand dollars in bribes to steer contracts to a French company.

A stoic Ramsey, 79, looked straight ahead as the jury’s forewoman announced that he was guilty on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and 12 counts of bribery by majority verdicts after three hours of deliberation.

He faces a maximum of four years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The jury of seven women and two men acquitted Ramsey of two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery.

Shortly after the verdict, defence lawyer Wayne Munroe QC raised a constitutional motion, asking that the verdict be arrested.

Justice Bernard Turner will hear that motion on May 12.

He extended Ramsey’s $40,000 bail until then on the condition that he surrendered his travel documents to court on Wednesday morning. However, Turner warned Ramsey that his decision to continue bail “should not be taken as an indication that the court is likely to impose a non-custodial sentence”.

The verdict comes after a Connecticut court ordered Alstom SA, a French power and transportation company, to pay $775 million in fines under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for falsifying its books and failing to implement adequate internal controls. The company had pleaded guilty to the charges in a federal court.

The US Justice Department’s investigation revealed that Alstom covered its tracks by hiring middlemen to offer bribes to government officials.

American middleman Mark Smith, who had a previous business relationship with Ramsey’s company Caribbean Business Supplies Limited (CBSL), testified that he deposited the bribes in Ramsey’s US account for providing details of private board meetings; getting a reduction in fines that Alstom had to pay in penalties for late installation of the generators; and approaching a Cabinet minister to intervene after the board unanimously voted to award the contract to the South Korean company Han Jung.

Ramsey was acquitted in relation to the allegation in relation to Alstom’s first contract with the government in which he allegedly succeeded in getting Alstom’s late penalties reduced.

He was convicted in relation to the second contract for which Han Jung had been initially chosen. According to Smith, Frank Watson, who was at the time deputy prime minister, suspended the award of the contract pending a Cabinet investigation.

Cabinet disregarded the recommendation of the board and BEC’s management and selected Alstom to do the work.

Smith, who was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony, produced records showing checks that he had made out to Ramsey and deposited to his Florida account.

Ramsey, through Munroe, suggested that the money represented commissions that Ramsey earned through Caribbean Business Supplies Limited, a company that both he and Smith had an interest in.

Smith maintained, however, that the checks were proof of the payments for work that Ramsey allegedly did for Alstom.

In his summation, Turner told the jury that it was no defence that Ramsey did not have the power to award the contract or to influence the board.

Throughout the trial, Munroe emphasized that the power to award contracts was vested in the Cabinet.

He asked Inspector Debra Thompson, the investigating officer, why she did not find it necessary to interview former prime minister Hubert Ingraham as he headed the body that ultimately awarded the contract to Alstom.

However, Turner said, “The power to do nothing is no defence. You cannot accept money, if you are indeed a public official.”

Turner also told jurors that if they found Ramsey accepted money that they were to presume it was an inducement or a reward.

Ramsey did not present a defence to the allegations and exercised his constitutional right to remain silent.

Turner told jurors that they could not convict Ramsey on the absence of his defence, as he had nothing to prove.

Ramsey called a neighbour and business associate, who attested to his “good character”.

The witness was unable to say whether the allegations made against Ramsey were true as he said that he learned about them in the media.

IMAGE: Former Bahamas Electricity Corporation board member Fred Ramsey exits the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Ahvia J. Campbell

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