A customs officer is due back in court on Wednesday on charges that he stole EC$142,761.43 from the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines between Aug. 30 and Sept. 21, 2023.
Gibron Bailey pleaded not guilty to the 10 counts when he appeared before John Ballah at Kingstown Magistrate’s Court today (Monday).
However, his lawyer, Grant Connell said his client had confessed in an electronic interview with police and he asked for an adjournment to Wednesday as he suggested to the court that his client would plead guilty then.
The 39-year-old customs officer, of Diamond, has been granted EC$70,000 bail with one surety and ordered to report to the Stubbs Police Station on Monday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. until the matter is disposed of.
Ballah also ordered Bailey to surrender his travel documents, and that stop notices be placed at ports of entry and exit.
The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Detective Sergeant Quow is investigating the matter in which Bailey is accused of stealing EC$67,579.35 in cash and cheques totally EC$75,182.08 from the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on 10 separate occasion beginning on Aug. 31 and ending Sept. 21, 2023 in Kingstonw.
Initially, the prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police Shamrock Pierre had asked the court to set a bail sum reflective of the amount of money allegedly stolen.
But Connell told the court he was somewhat taken aback by the proposed bail amount.
“… these courts have been inundated with things of this nature, surpassing the quantum in this case and those condition were not imposed.
“So, I don’t know what characteristics this young man may have that the others may not have had,” the lawyer said.
He said that given the nature of the offence, the defence was indicating that it has no intention of wasting the court’s time and would be asking for a short adjournment to Wednesday.
“The police have acted at variance with normal procedure,” Connel said.
“I have been instructed, I have not received the DVD. He gave an electronic interview. He has cooperated with the police so you are seeing an indication of what Wednesday will be all about,” the lawyer told the court.
“… that cooperation fell into the three brackets of where police solve crime in St. Vincent: caught red-handed, tip off, or confession. So he fell into the third bracket,” Connel said.
The lawyer said that although Bailey fell into the third bracket, it is in the interest of the police “if even you fooling somebody … to tell them how the procedure will take place. It is your duty, you have an interest to protect, you have to complete your investigation”.
Connell said there was EC$75,000 of cheques “still out there”.
“And the quagmire that that presents is that leading business places … would have paid the system by cheque and their goods would have been removed from the system. So it would create an accounting frenzy,” he said.
“So one would have thought that the police would want to get their hands on the cheques,” Connel told the court.
“I don’t usually help the prosecution, I don’t get paid to work for the police or work for the prosecution,” Connell said.
He, however, told the court that in the interest of justice, he was asking for a short adjournment and he trusted that the prosecution would “shackle” his client with less harsh conditions of bail.
“I don’t know why they want his passport. This court never asked for other people’s passports. It was four times that,” Connel said.
“I am not saying the act was not wrong but I am indicating to the court our intention,”he said adding that he was making that intervention because he intended to ask the court that all the credit be extended to his client.
“I am not speaking in parables, but understand where I am going,” he said, adding that he thinks that Pierre would then ask for less stringent bail conditions.
Pierre then told the court that each case must be dealt with on its own merit.
“The conditions are not harsh but I am asking for a reduction in the quantum. If we are coming back on Wednesday, I see no issues with the surrender of the passport. Maybe half of the total as surety,” the prosecutor said.
He asked the court to impose bail of EC$70,000 and reporting conditions.
Connell then said his client has no intention to abscond.
“He has certain things to do to help the police. And the police should do their work. Who is the police? I’ll give Quow a heads but I would like full disclosure by tomorrow morning, please, Your Honour.
“At least give counsel an opportunity to see what his client said,” he told the court, referring to a copy of the electronic interview that he said was not given to his client,” Connell said.
“You can’t prosecute like that. You can’t carry a man in an interview room, get a full statement, record it electronically; he is entitled to the DVD so that he can show his lawyer and from the time he gets up he can give it to his lawyer,” Connell said.
He, however, said that from the time certain lawyers’ names are called in a police station it is “like kryptonite”.
Connell also said that he also wants to draw something to the attention of the court when he gets the DVD and that he would be putting every justice of the peace in St. Vincent on notice “that they have a duty to the individual, not the police.
“And when I am mitigating on Wednesday, I’m asking the court to send a summons to the JP who was present in that interview. Quow will know him. It is either you want a lawless society or you want to comply with the law.”
The magistrate told the prosecution when someone is charged, in the same way that they are given a copy of the charge sheet they should be given a copy of the electronic interview.
“The investigator is supposed to serve either the interviewee or his counsel a copy. It is only fair that if the police have in their possession a copy belonging to the interviewee that it is handed over to him or counsel,” the magistrate said.