Jury hung on six charges in government theft case

| 27/07/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Glass House, George Town

(CNS): After a two-week trial, former government clerk Atisha Ebanks walked away from court on Wednesday still on bail and still unsure whether she will be convicted of theft or fraud after a jury was unable to agree on six of the 30 counts the local woman faced. Ebanks was acquitted of 22 charges of theft and two of false accounting but she will now need to wait to find out if the crown will continue to pursue the remaining five theft charges and one of false accounting, after the jury was hung over whether she had stolen from the public purse.

The crown had alleged that Ebanks had systematically stolen at least $50,000 from government, which she had collected in cash from people seeking naturalization applications. Prosecutor Toyin Salako said that the former civil servant, who was working in the then chief secretary’s office in the Glass House, stole the money for almost two years, between November 2006 when she started working there to when the theft was discovered after an individual turned up for the pledging ceremony without a receipt.

The crown had admitted that the system at the time was flawed, with no checks and balances, but Salako had said that Ebanks had manipulated that faulty system to steal the money without detection, falsifying records and using hand written receipts from customers who paid cash for their $500 naturalization fee.

But Ebanks flatly denied ever stealing the money and said she was forced to use hand written receipts because the computer system and printers were often down, but she would detail payments on Post-it notes, which she would bundle with receipts and the cash, and hand it all in at the end of the day to her supervisors. She insisted that she had never been told off for the back-up system she used when the government’s internal IRIS system was down and she had no idea what happened to the money after she handed it over.

Ebanks was represented by Laurence Ailofi, from Samson & McGrath, who had argued that the system was so flawed that there was no way to know for sure that the money was even missing in many cases and that they system could have been abused anywhere along the chain of people dealing with the applicants, cash and paperwork.

The jury found Ebanks not guilty on 24 charges, based on a majority rather than a unanimous verdict, but the fact that they were unable to reach a verdict on the remaining six counts means she could be tried again for the theft of $2,500 and fraud. Ebanks was bailed to return to court in August to hear if the prosecution will be pursuing the remaining charges in a second trial.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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