Witness wanted cash to talk

| 23/04/2014

(CNS): The integrity of the crown’s key witness in its case against a local police officer accused of blackmail was brought into question during the ongoing trial Tuesday when it was revealed he had asked for money in exchange for his evidence to pay for flights. Filipino national Len Ferrares had told police that Elvis Ebanks, who is currently suspended from his job with the RCIPS, asked him for a bribe of $500 not to prosecute him over the alleged theft of a cell phone at the Auto-spa. However, the court heard that Ferrares had asked for money to testify in court. The jury also heard that although Ebanks was not armed or violent when he was arrested in connection with the crime, three officers dragged him from his car and one had kicked him to the ground.

After the crown successfully managed to present the evidence from Ferrares, whose first language is Tagalog, on its third attempt as a result of translation difficulties,the crown turned to the evidence from the various officers involved in the case.

The court heard from two officers at the scene of the arrest that Ebanks was kicked by one of them, not because he was armed, dangerous or violent but because he was “non-compliant”.

Six officers were involved in the arrest of Ebanks, a serving officer at the time, on the side of the East-West arterial in November 2012 after he had allegedly collected the bribe from Ferrares in a set up with marked cash. The officers insisted that Ebanks refused to get out of the car and held his body rigid, preventing them from cuffing him. As a result, three officers physically dragged the man from the car onto his knees and across the tarmac, while another officer said he used a “deflection strike” to get Ebanks to lie down.

He admitted, however, that the deflection strike consisted of kicking the defendant to the ground.

During the police evidence, the reluctance of Ferrares to give evidence was highlighted and questions over the witness’s integrity were raised. It was already clear from earlier testimony that Ferrares had been working at the Auto-spa on some type of casual basis without a permit, as his official work permit was held by a local janitorial firm. The claim by Ferrares that he had found rather than stolen the phone was also brought into question during his evidence. However, the integrity and truthfulness of the prosecution's witness came under greater scrutiny when a police officer confirmed he had asked for money.

Under cross-examination, a UK officer from the Anti-corruption Unit at the time of the investigation said Ferrares had asked for payment to come to court and give evidence, but the police had made it clear to him that the RCIPS would not offer any financial inducement for his evidence. However, the senior officer, who was recruited to Cayman as a result of his experience and specialist skills from Britain, admitted that he had made no note of the conversations.

Despite the sensitivity of the issue and best practice, he said he didn’t record the request by Ferrares for cash. He also admitted making no note of his conversation with the head of the Anti-corruption Unit, Richard Oliver, another UK officer who was recruited to Cayman during Operation Tempura, or any conversation he had with Ferrares telling him that the RCIPS would not pay for evidence.

Ebanks has denied blackmail but said he had taken the money as it was urged upon him by Ferrares as a short term loan. The attorney representing Ebanks has suggested that Ferrares made up the allegations to prevent him from being deported.

The trial continues this week in Grand Court One.

Category: Crime

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