No ‘evil agents’ say crown

| 06/10/2014

(CNS): The crown prosecutor told the jury that there were no evil agents of the state urging McKeeva Bush to use his government credit cards in casinos and then lie about it, as he drew the crown's case agaisnt the former permier to a close. Bush is facing 11 counts of abusing his corporate credit card, and after some four weeks Duncan Penny QC adressed the jury Friday morning. He said that the claims Bush had made about a political witch-hunt were a distraction from his own actions as he knew he should not have been drawing cash on the government card to gamble with. He said the lies the former premier told were powerful evidence that he knew his conduct was dishonest and a breach of the trust placed in him by the people.

The crown’s lawyer stuck to his position that this was about a powerful man abusing his high office.

Penny reminded the jury that there are no witches in a court and if they focused on the evidence the jury would get it right. He said that the cash was withdrawn with gambling in mind, and for all the drama, the decision to charge Bush was not taken by the governor, Duncan Taylor, or the police commissioner but by the director of public prosecutions and the controversial emails were given to the defence by that office.

“Was there an evil agent of the state on the casino floor urging him to use the credit card and lie about it?” Penny asked rhetorically, pointing out that it was Bush alone who had made the attempted and successful cash withdrawals on dozens of occasions as he gambled away more than a quarter of a million dollars during the period in question of his own and government cash.

The lawyer pressed home that the case is about what Bush did and how he used the card, which was given to him for public benefit, for his own ends. He said no one fabricated the evidence and no one stood behind the former premier telling him to withdraw the cash on the government gold card and put it in slot machines in the early hours of the morning.

During a two hour address, in which he summed up the crown’s case against Bush, Penny emphasised the narrow issues in question and the policy regarding whether or not he could use the card. Given the email sent by the then chief financial officer, Josephine Sambula, in April 2009  which clearly stipulated that government credit cards were for official use only, Penny questioned how that could be interpreted as 'anything goes'.

Pointing to what he described as the escalating pattern of dishonest usage of the government card to supplement his own cash in his long slot machine gambling sessions, there was little doubt he was abusing the power to use the card. 

He said civil servants in his office may have been reluctant to press Bush about the card use because of his powerful position. While Sambula had drawn the cash withdrawals to the attention of her boss, the chief officer Carson Ebanks, he had waved away her concerns and said getting the money back was the important thing. But Penny said they did not know this money was being cashed in casinos and what use it was being put to. And they could not have known then that abuse would continue and that it would escalate.

The lies too, the lawyer said, showed that Bush knew full well he should not have used his CIG card to access a line of credit in casino. This demonstrated his culpability as he had tried to conceal the real purpose those cash advances were being put to, Penny said as he invited the jury to return guilty verdicts in all eleven counts.

Having opted not to take the stand and called no witnesses, Bush’s one opportunity to present his case will come with the former premier’s QC, Geoffrey Cox’s closing argument to the jury on Monday. Cox is expected to focus heavily on the lack of a formal written policy and the conspiracy to oust Bush from office.

Following the defence statement, the judge is expected to summarize the case for the jury and direct them in accordance with the law before sending them to deliberate later this week.

Keep following CNS for the latest reports from the trial.

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