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The money should be returned to Frederick, says Magistrate Browne

The money should be returned to Frederick, says Magistrate Browne

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Less than a week after the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) successfully convicted two men of concealing US$1.7 million, suspected of being the proceeds of criminal conduct, they were unsuccessful at a forfeiture hearing of US$67,540 (EC$180,331.80),{{more}} which had been taken from Greiggs resident Tex Frederick.

On Friday, March 16, Senior Magistrate Donald Browne ruled that Frederick had legitimate means of obtaining the money and that the sum was not from the proceeds of criminal acts or intended for criminal purposes.

The FIU had made an application for forfeiture of the money on October 8, 2010, after local Coast Guard personnel, while on patrol in Vincentian waters, stopped the speed boat ‘Blue Sky’ and carried out a search. During that search, the money was discovered in the engine of the boat.

Magistrate Browne, in his ruling, agreed with the deposition made by Frederick’s former employer Arnold Hughes, of Anguilla, who said Frederick worked as a plumber and collected between US$1,000 and US$1,500 per week.

“Frederick was making plenty money. I do not agree with the means that he was saving it, but he showed where he was getting the money…Without a doubt, the money belongs to Mr Frederick. The money should be returned to him…,” the magistrate ruled.

During the hearing, Frederick told the court that he worked in Anguilla for a number of years and was able to save his money and was going to purchase a boat in St Lucia when the money was seized.

Officers arrested Frederick, along with one Barrington Harris, on the Blue Sky after the money was found in the engine of the boat.

Frederick, under cross-examination by attorney LaTeisha Sandy of the FIU, explained that he had placed the money there because of the threat of pirates on the seas.

“…There was no other place on the vessel where the money could have been stored safely; that was the safest place…,” Frederick said.

He was adamant that although there were cabins on board, the engines were the safest place to keep his money. A coastguard officer had testified that placing the money in the engine could have caused it to malfunction.

In Frederick’s affidavit, he said he was on his way to Chateaubelair when he began to have engine trouble. He said it was not the presence of the money in the engine which caused the engine to fail.

Frederick testified that he was on his way to Chateuabelair to get clearance to travel to St Lucia to purchase a boat from a man named Esan McQuilkin of Carriacou.

He told the court that he did not know McQuilkin well and that he had only had conversations with him over the telephone.

Frederick said the he had never seen the boat he was going to purchase, but had seen a similar one on the Internet.

“Where did you intend to clear Customs?” Sandy questioned. Frederick replied, “I was going to clear in Castries. I wasn’t sure exactly where, but I was going to ask when I get there…”

He also refuted testimony from coastguard officers who said they had to chase the vessel Blue Sky.

“We were drifting for a few hours when coast guard intercepted us…I left Buccament around 10:00 am and it was the coastguard who had been towing us and is them who help we start back one engine,” Frederick testified.

In re-examination by his counsel Grant Connell, Frederick said his work in Anguilla was like a “ripe guava tree” back in 2006.

“There was work all around. I worked night and day…,” Frederick added.

He said he was working three jobs at one time. One from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, another from 3:00 pm to 12 midnight and from 12 midnight to 6:00 am.

“For four years, I worked nearly for 23 hours a day….”

In his submission, Connell asserted that the FIU failed miserably to prove the origin of the money they were seeking to have forfeited.

“They failed to prove that this money has some criminal element or intention to use in criminal action…,” Connell remarked.

Connell added that Station Sergeant Clauston Francis had stated in an affidavit that Frederick had no legal means by which he could have come into possession of the money.

“…As the case progressed, it was evident that the investigations were incomplete….,” Connell added.

“My client worked in Anguilla as a mason, carpenter, among other things… This clearly came as a shock to the applicants who asked for time to investigate the defense to see if it was authentic. They received affidavits from Anguilla which verified what Frederick said was correct. The affidavits received highlighted how much he was paid,” Connell stressed.

He further contended that his client was hardly cross- examined about the origin of the money or his work in Anguilla.

“The origin of the money has been justified. The intent and purpose of which it was going to be used is justified. It was to buy a boat in St Lucia. The affidavit of Francis can’t justify this money being forfeited. Frederick worked for a number of years in Anguilla, he sent home the money to his father who kept it and it was going to be invested later…,” Connell argued.

In response to Connell’s submissions, Sandy told the court that there was competing evidence with regard to the origin of the money.

Sandy noted that there were instances prior to the hearing where Frederick was given numerous opportunities to state the origin of the money and on all occasions, he remained silent.

When the men were picked up, Sandy said Harris told coastguard officers that he was going to purchase parts for his vessel. However, she said his story was not supported because he only had $70 in his pocket at the time.

“These respondents are asking this court to believe that they left SVG with the intention of going to St Lucia to purchase a vessel….It is hard to believe that the respondent was travelling to St Lucia with so much money to purchase a vessel that he had never seen, from a man whom he had never met…,” Sandy argued.

She further added that it did not add up that Frederick, who worked so hard, would send his money back to St Vincent for his ailing father to secure.

“It doesn’t stand to reason that you would send your money to be taken care of that way and can’t gain any interest on your money. I submit these things are fabrication. I submit that no one with US$67,540, having worked so hard, would place themselves at such a risk,” Sandy contended.

After announcing his ruling, Browne congratulated Sandy for doing a “super job”, adding that she had done thorough research.

“Miss Sandy has impressed this court 100 per cent. You are as tenacious as you are pretty. You have done well, but in the view of the court the stacks were against you,” Browne said.

“I don’t know why Frederick worked so long and hard was playing games with his money and to put it in engine covers. That is why the FIU became suspicious. However, the application for forfeiture is not allowed,” he ruled.

Commenting on the case’s outcome, Connell said keeping the money the way his client did was by no means unlawful and that the FIU failed to investigate the matter properly and that they depended on draconian legislation that exists to take people’s money away.

“I’m sure many who lost money and placed it in certain institutions, wished today they had kept it in a similar fashion as my client did,” Connell said.

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