Cop in dock over bribery

| 06/11/2013

(CNS): A police officer who is accused of taking a bribe was in the dock Tuesday in Grand Court facing serious charges under the anti-corruption law. Elvis Kelsey Ebanks, who has denied the allegations, is charged with bribery and breach of public trust in connection with money he is accused of taking from a Filipino national in exchange for not arresting him for theft. When the crown opened its case against the officer, who is suspended from duty, before a jury of four women and three men, prosecuting counsel said they would hear evidence of Ebanks’ crime not just from the witnesses but recordings of telephone conversations between the officer and his victim arranging to meet for money to be exchanged.

The crown said the issue the jury would have to consider was whether or not the man in the dock had abused his power as a police officer to threaten and intimidate his victim into giving him money or whether this was a legitimate loan as the officer has claimed.

Setting out the details of the allegations, the prosecutor said that the incident, in which Ebanks had fallen far short of public expectations of a police officer, occurred last November. At the time of the alleged crime, Filipino national Len Ferraris, who had not been in Cayman long, found a phone on a seat at a Red Bay car wash, where his brother-in-law worked. When no one claimed it, he took the phone and eventually putin his own SIM card and added his photo to the handset’s BBM profile, which led the real owner to him.

The local man who was the owner of the phone reported the issue to the police and he and Ebanks, the officer who was assigned to the case, went to the Auto Spa in Shamrock Road to find the man who had posted his profile on the phone. Ferraris immediately handed the phone over when asked and Ebanks ordered him to wait in his police car. He then discussed the issue with the phone owner, who was merely content to get the phone back and had no interest in pressing charges.

However, Ebanks did not convey this to Ferraris. After the phone owner left the car wash, Ebanks got into the unmarked police car, in which the man waited, and drove away. He then proceeded to threaten Ferraris with a ten year jail sentence for his crime. Distraught and frightened, the man denied being a thief but Ebanks pressed the issue and reportedly threatened him repeatedly before asking him for money.

The man allegedly gave the police officer CI$115 from his wallet, which he said during his evidence Tuesday, via an interpreter, was all the money he had. However, the officer wanted more and as he drove around with the man, he pressed him to find a way to give him more money. Before dropping his victim off, he told him to raise $500 and he would call him to collect it the following Wednesday. This, he reportedly told the man, would ensure he would stay out of jail. Threatening the man further and warning him not to say anything to anyone, Ebanks then drove away.

Ferraris did not remain silent, however, and told a family member, who reported the incident to the police. This triggered an undercover operation and the police recorded calls between Ferraris and Ebanks and the arrangements for the two men to meet again, this time at Countryside Shopping village in Savannah, for the cash to be delivered. Ferraris was given five one hundred dollar bills in a white bag by the police, which had been copied to record the serial numbers, and dispatched Ferraris to the rendezvous.

After the Filipino handed over the money and gained Ebanks’ assurance that he would not be arrested, the undercover cops who were on the scene followed the police officer. They pulled his vehicle over shortly after the exchange and, according to the crown, the officer tried to make his escape but he was blocked by the police involved in the operation. He then refused to get out the car and was forcibly removed by the undercover officers. Despite a struggle, in which the money and white bag was scattered around the area, he was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of bribery and breach of trust.

Ebanks, who remains on bail, has denied the allegations and told the police that the money was a legitimate loan.

The trial continues in court five before presiding judge, Justice Charles Quin, on Thursday morning, when Grand Court reconvenes following a judicial conference on Wednesday.

The crown is then expected to play the recording it has of the conversations between the two men regarding the arrangements for the meetings and the payment of the bribe, which the crown says will demonstrate Ebanks is guilty as charged.

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