A key witness for the prosecution in the case in which a woman is accused of stealing EC$154,000 from the government through an alleged tyre sale scam at police headquarters, told the court he lied to investigators and also during his testimony in the trial.
The witness, Gareth Sayers, made the disclosure as he was cross-examined during the trial at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court last month.
The prosecution is alleging that the accused woman, Mitra-Ann Prescott of Harmony Hall, a junior clerk assigned to police headquarters, processed fraudulent claims related to the alleged supply of tyres for police vehicles.
The Crown is alleging that between Aug. 11 and Dec. 29, 2017 at Kingstown, Prescott stole EC$6,500, the property of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GoSVG).
Prescott is also alleged to have stolen EC$60,400, the property of GoSVG, between Jan. 2 and Aug. 14, 2019, at Kingstown.
A third count of theft was in the sum of EC$87,400, allegedly stolen at Kingstown between Jan. 17 and Dec. 21, 2018.
The alleged fraudulent claims were processed in the name of “Gareth Sayers” and “Gary’s Garage”, the prosecution has said.
In his evidence in chief at the trial, Sayers told the court that he is a mechanic who operates from his home for himself and does not provide services to others.
He said he has known Prescott for about two years as she used to travel in his bus and those were the only times he had opportunities to interact with her.
Sayers said he does not sell tyres but had ordered four for her through “Jimmy”, a friend in Grenada who would help him source parts for his vehicle.
The witness said there was once in St. Vincent and the Grenadines a shortage of tyres for vans and Prescott told him that she heard that he does business and asked if his friend in Grenada could help her too.
“I told her he would help anybody, once they are paying. I got the tyres, but they took a while because she did not get back to me right away,” Sayers told the court.
The witness said he could not remember when this took place, but Prescott paid him around EC$2,000 in cash for the four tyres.
“They were tyres that are used on vans and pick-ups,” Sayers said, adding that he could not recall if Prescott had a vehicle, but he never sold tyres to the government or police department.
Sayers said Prescott never contacted him about selling tyres to the government.
“When she contacted me concerning the tyres, I did not know what they were for. I told her once the police wanted and they pay, they can get. She did not tell me it was for the police,” he said.
He told the court the tyres arrived in SVG on board MV Guidance, which docked at the Grenadines Wharf in Kingstown.
“When I purchase anything from Jimmy, I just go on the boat and collect them. Jimmy is the person in Grenada. When I collected the tyres, I got in contact with Mitra-Ann. She came and collected them on the Grenadines Wharf,” he told the court.
He said that he would normally pay “Jimmy” before the items are shipped from Grenada so when the tyres for Prescott arrived, she had already paid.
Sayers said he had done business with the GoSVG once before, regarding a gearbox but this was “quite a while” ago and he could not recall when it was.
He said he did not know what SmartStream is — the government’s accounting system, through which payments in the alleged tyres scam were allegedly processed.
Sayers told the court that he knew that Prescott works at the Office of the Commissioner of Police and that he visited her there once.
“I went up by CID Office and I just passed across. I had other business and I just passed across. I was in the neighbourhood so I just passed just to say hello,” Sayers told the court.
Sayers said that he had already known Prescott in 2017 and did not collect any money from her that year for the sale of tyres.
He could not recall collecting money from her in 2018, telling the court, “My mother passed away that year. I had a bad year”.
The witness, however, concluded that he did not collect any money from Prescott for tyres in 2018.
Sayers said police interviewed him in relation to the case but did not recall when it was.
He told the court that when interviewed by police, he did not have occasion to speak with Prescott, nor did he speak to her at all in relation to the case and the sale of tyres.
The witness said that after the police interviewed him, he did not speak on the telephone with Prescott.
“She wasn’t answering my calls,” he said, telling the court that he had attempted to call Prescott “to find out what was going on and what this is all about”.
Sayers said he never found out what was going on and how his name came into the investigation.
During cross examination, defence counsel Israel Bruce pointed out to Sayers that he had talked in his statement to police about taking tyres to SVG Tire Sales & Services (“Shallow”).
Sayers said that the statement he gave to police was “wrong”.
Bruce also quoted the statement as saying, “Whenever I collect money from Mitra, she will tell me to take something for myself”.
“Those are my words,” Sayers said, but maintained that he had only collected money for tyres from Prescott once.
“One time. It was just a statement,” he said and denied lying.
“‘Most of the time, I will meet workmen there and tell them that the police transport will come for them’,” Bruce further said, quoting Sayers’ statement.
“So, you lied to the police?” he asked Sayers.
“Yes,” Sayers responded.
“So how are we sure you are not lying to the magistrate today?” the lawyer said.
“I am not lying to the magistrate today,” the witness replied.
“‘I recall the first time I received money from Mitra-Ann with regard to the tyres was at BoSVG at Heritage Square’,” Bruce said, quoting the statement.
Sayers admitted that he said this to the police and that it was not what he had told the court during the trial.
He further admitted, under cross examination, that when his mother died in 2018, it was Prescott, who was “running up and down” with him trying to organise her funeral.
“But she is a jumbie (a ghost) today; you just barely know she,” Bruce said.
The witness told the court that his first statement to police was on Oct. 9, 2019 and the second on June 3, 2020.
“‘I wish to state that I never carry any tyres for Mr. Shallow or his business place’,” Bruce quoted Sayers as saying in the statement.
“I said that,” Sayers told the court.
He further acknowledged saying in the statement that Prescott had gone to the wharf to collect the tyres, adding that he lied to the police in making that statement.
“‘I am self-employed in the above capacity and is the owner and operator of Gary’s Garage’,” Bruce said, reading from the statement.
“I said that,” Sayers admitted.
“But today you tell the court you don’t have anything named Gary’s Garage,” Bruce observed.
“I explained to the police that I don’t have a garage. He put that as a garage.”
The witness agreed that he lied to the police because he did not have Gary’s garage.
In the statement, Sayers told police:
“I never sign any book or document whenever I collect monies from Mitra-Ann. Neither am I given a receipt … the amount of money I collected cannot reach $104,000.”
When cross examined on this point, he told the court he never told the police it was once he collected money from Prescott.
Sayers agreed with Bruce that he had told a number of lies to the police.
At the close of the prosecution’s case, prosecutor Crown Counsel Rose-Ann Richardson withdrew the three official corruption charges.
Bruce told the court that he intends to make a no-case submission on the theft charges and was given until Jan. 23 to do so.
The Crown was given a week to respond and then Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett will inform both parties of a date to return to the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court for his ruling.