Days after the January Assizes opened last week Tuesday, with over 31 new matters and 168 overall, the lone operating criminal court is once again faced with health challenges.
On Monday, female High Court Judge Justice Paula Gilford was expected to start the highly anticipated Reynold Benjamin fraud trial at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court.
However, the judge, who did not provide much detail, pushed back the matter to February 4 for reasons which she did not specify, before the court full to capacity, including jurors who reported for civic duty.
Information reaching THE NEW TODAY is that the judge’s decision was taken as a result of mold issues still plaguing the chambers at the No.1 High Court.
In an effort to address the longstanding High Court crisis, which intensified last May, newly appointed Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani announced Tuesday that the Keith Mitchell-led government has struck a deal to utilise parts of the CLICO Building on Young Street in St. George’s through a lease agreement.
Ramdhani said the intention is for the facility to house two (2) Criminal courts and two (2) Civil High Courts on the island.
Benjamin, a longstanding attorney, is facing two (2) counts of Fraudulent Breach of Trust involving $845, 000 in connection with the failed Capital Bank International of convicted businessman, Finton De Bourg.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Christopher Nelson QC, has a total of five (5) witnesses who will give evidence in court against the famed attorney who would have to wait a couple more weeks for his trial to commence.
Benjamin is accused of fraudulently misappropriating the monies and using it for his own benefit.
The experienced lawyer, who was arrested in May 2008, following investigations by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), allegedly committed the crimes during the period December 2002 – August 2007.
He was retained by Capbank to fight a decision of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to refuse the Finton DeBourg-led bank into its Clearing House facility in order to allow the local financial institution to issue and clear its own cheques.
Capbank entrusted the $845, 000 to Benjamin to pay fees for its entry into the ECCB clearing house facility.
The failed bank had applied to the 1990-95 Congress government of Prime Minister Sir. Nicholas Brathwaite for a licence to operate a bank but it was turned down.
However, when the New National Party (NNP) took office in June 1995, the incoming Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell overturned the decision and granted DeBourg the licence to operate the bank.
THE NEW TODAY understands that in the face of the ECCB position, Capbank was forced to use the bank accounts of a number of prominent locals including former Governor-General Sir. Daniel Williams to do financial transactions.
There was a run on the bank with customers when it failed to return a deposit of one million E.C dollars belonging to a native from the sister isle of Carriacou.
When depositors approached the bank to take out their funds, Capbank could not make payments and government was forced in 2008 to appoint Accountant, David Holukoff, the former Chairman of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme, as the receiver.
Holukoff discovered that Benjamin was allegedly holding $845, 000 for Capbank and wrote him to return the money which was not done.
The Receiver filed a complaint with the FIU of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) that the CapBank’s attorney did not use the monies to do what he was supposed to do and the monies were not returned to the Bank.
If convicted, Benjamin faces a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment on each count.
Benjamin has retained the services of attorneys Dr. Francis Alexis, QC and George Prime to assist him.