Businessman Bertille “Silky” Da Silva, 89, has denied that he was in an intimate relationship with his former employee, Nigerian-Vincentian Eunice Dowers, 28, who is charged with using his credit card without permission, fraud and money laundering.
Da Silva, however, admitted in court, on Wednesday, that he had taken her for Sunday drives, that she visited and cooked at his home multiple times, and that he had helped her secure an apartment, bought her a fridge and helped her to meet financial commitments from time to time.
The information was revealed at the Serious Offences Court at the beginning of the three days that Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne set aside for the trial of the woman, who has been slapped with 52 charges.
Defence counsel Grant Connell attempted to use his cross-examination to paint Dowers and Da Silva as former lovers.
However, Da Silva maintained that this was not the case and at times derided Dowers as a “criminal” and not his type of woman.
Dowers was employed at Da Silva’s company, Star Garage, from April 2018 to February 2019, when she was fired after an altercation with her co-worker, Marlon Stephenson.
Da Silva was the first witness that the Crown, represented by Crown Counsel Rose-Ann Richardson and Karim Nelson called.
Richards led the evidence during the businessman’s testimony.
As he began his cross examination of Da Silva some two hours into the hearing, Connell asked Da Silva if he knows Dowers.
Da Silva responded in the affirmative, saying he had been “seeing her every day”.
The lawyer pointed out that in the Vincentian context, seeing someone means that one is a relationship with that person, and asked the businessman if that is what he meant.
Da Silva, however, said that he meant that if someone asked him to identify Dowers, he would be able to point her out.
He said he first met Dowers when she came to Star Garage seeking employment.
The businessman told the court that some persons would write a job application to the company while others would come in person.
He said the procedure is that when someone comes in person, the person is referred to his nephew, Joshua Da Silva, manager of Star Garage, or to Stephenson for an interview.
He said that Dowers came in person seeking employment but he cannot remember the date.
Connell suggested that the date was April 4, 2018, adding that Da Silva further told his nephew to bring back Dowers to his (Bertille) office after the interview.
The lawyer further suggested that Dowers was brought back to Da Silva’s office, as per his instruction, which Da Silva again said he could not recall.
“And you said, ‘Don’t bother with the interview. You got the job’,” Connell further suggested, to which Da Silva said he never did.
“You then started asking her personal questions. Is she is bored at home and if you can come and take her for drives on Sundays,” the lawyer said.
“No!” Da Silva responded.
The lawyer put it to Da Silva that the Sunday after the “fast-tracked interview”, the businessman picked up Dowers at her home and took her to the mineral spring in Belair.
“That is true,” Da Silva said, adding that he had gone there to collect some mineral water to take home.
“Did you introduce Miss Dowers to the water? Did you give her some? Did you give her some of your water? She went home with you?” Connell said.
‘so many nice girls’
The businessman, who said he had been married, told the court that he took Dowers to his home because she asked where he lived.
“So if I ask you where you’re living, would you take me there?” the lawyer asked.
“Not you! What I taking you there for?” Da Silva retorted.
“At that point, you saw a potential relationship with that lady,” Connell said.
But Da Silva said he has “so many nice girls. I go put myself with she?”
Da Silva said he couldn’t recall what he and Dowers did at his house.
‘There is nothing special. I take people there all the time,” he said.
The businessman further said that he couldn’t recall the name of the last female employee that he took to his house before Dowers.
“Several of them,” Da Silva said, at which point Nelson rose and told the court he was struggling to see the relevance of Connell’s questions.
Da Silva said that after that visit he dropped Dowers at her home in Brighton.
“Mr. Da Silva, every Sunday after that, you carried her to your home,” Connell said.
“Several times,” Da Silva responded but denied demanding that Dowers come to his house every single day.
He also said he couldn’t recall how many times a week Dowers came to his house.
Da Silva said it was not true, as the lawyer suggested, that he had complained to Dowers that she was getting too fat.
Connell further told Da Silva that a few days after Dowers began working at Star Garage, she became his personal secretary.
Da Silva said: “I have nothing personal; Star Garage.”
He also denied asking Dowers to join a gym at Villa or picking her up on Saturdays and carrying her to the gym, where he also works out.
Da Silva told the court he goes to the gym on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
He further denied that the receptionist at the gym has told Dowers, in his presence, that Dowers would not lose weight quickly at the gym and suggested that she join the Be Fit movement.
Da Silva said that was not the case, adding that the only time he knew about Be Fit was when Dowers said that she needed EC$60 to reinstate something and he gave it to her.
‘I won’t have a girlfriend like she’
Da Silva said that Dowers cooked at his house but not for him.
“She used to cook for herself and take it where she’s living,” he said.
He also denied that Dowers used to massage him or that they took showers together.
“Never! Never! Never happen!” Da Silva said.
Regarding his credit card, Da Silva said he had a credit card and that it is in his name.
He said he had had additional card holders before from CIBC First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB), which issued the credit card.
Da Silva admitted that he took Dowers to Spring Garden Estate in the company of Allan Smith, his wife, and brother, adding that Dowers did not go there as the company secretary, or his girlfriend, but as Mrs. Dowers.
“No. She is not my girlfriend. She is my friend. Never girlfriend,” Da Silva said, adding, “I won’t have a girlfriend like she.”
He also denied going to a Be Fit party, “Wet Pool”, with Dowers, or giving her money to go or buying her an outfit to attend.
The lawyer suggested to Da Silva that because of the relationship he developed with Dowers he had offered to buy her things.
“Of course, I bought things for her,” Da Silva said.
He told the court that when Dowers was evicted she always wanted something and Adam Brothers was selling used fridges and he bought one for her.
Da Silva also denied providing for Dowers a house owned by Leona Daniel for which he was an agent.
He said Dowers was living at Ribishi and was complaining about the bad roads and Daniel is his good friend and was going back to England.
He said he asked Daniel to allow Dowers to stay at the house, but the owner asked for EC$1,200 per month in rent.
Da Silva further told the court he told Daniel that unoccupied houses are targets for burglaries and whether she would accept the EC$400 a month that Dowers was paying to her then landlord.
Connell, however, suggested that it was after one of Da Silva’s Sunday drives to Belair with Dowers that he suggested the road to Dowers’ home was mashing up his car and he offered to provide a house for her.
Da Silva, however, said that was not the case and further denied that he used to pay Dowers’ rent.
“She used to pay the $400 a month. When she had the credit card, she came and paid for two months and she had not paid a cent since.”
Da Silva said he did not inspect Daniel’s house and denied that Dowers had told him that there was no fridge there, hence his buying her one.
He further denied giving Dowers permission to use his credit card to buy an exercise machine.
“I will never do that. Even at this stage of my life, I would never do that.”
He also said that he did not take Dowers to CK Greaves to shop, then cook for him and take the balance to her home.
“She always hungry. One time, she bought 4lbs of beef, cook and eat it. She does eat like cattle,” Da Silva said of Dowers.
Before the lunch break, Connell had complained about a nasal congestion but when Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne asked him if he wanted an adjournment, he said no.
However, after the lunch break, Nelson told the court that Connell’s condition appeared to have deteriorated and had asked for an adjournment.
The hearing was suspended until Thursday morning.