Tibbetts loses appeal

Patrick Thomas Tibbetts, convicted by a Grand Court jury in February of money laundering, had his conviction and three-year sentence affirmed by the Court of Appeal on Friday.

Court president Mr. Justice Edward Zacca announced only that Tibbetts’ appeal had been dismissed. He said the court would put its reasons in a written judgment later.

Outside the courtroom, Tibbetts was allowed a few minutes with friends, albeit in the company of a police officer. The officer advised that the defendant/appellant would be taken to the George Town Police Station to await a warrant for his removal to Northward Prison.

Michael Wood QC, who argued the appeal, confirmed to the Caymanian Compass that he would be seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council once the written judgment is received.

Mr. Wood explained that the Court of Appeal had no power to grant bail at this stage.

Tibbetts was convicted of assisting two key Cash4Titles figures to retain the proceeds of criminal conduct. The US-based business started as a legitimate lender of money for which borrowers put up their vehicles titles as security. By the time US authorities closed down C4T in October 1999, however, it had turned into a Ponzi scheme in which old investors were being paid with new investors’ money.

An essential ingredient of the charge was that Tibbetts knew or suspected that Richard Homa and Michael Gause – the key C4T figures – were or had been engaged in criminal conduct or had benefited from it.

In passing sentence the Grand Court judge said he accepted Mr. Wood’s assertion that the jury had found Tibbetts had the necessary suspicion, as distinct from knowledge.

Mr. Wood had given notice of appeal even before sentence was passed and Tibbetts was allowed to remain on bail pending his appeal.

The first ground of appeal argued was that of juror bias, which the court dismissed after hearing arguments and live evidence from three witnesses (Compass, 10 November).

Mr. Wood argued two other main grounds. One was what he called the ‘material irregularity’ that occurred after Hurricane Ivan. The trial had started in May 2004 and was interrupted for about eight weeks because of the storm.

After the break the trial judge summarised the Prosecution witnesses’ evidence to refresh jurors’ memory. Mr. Wood had not agreed to this procedure, saying the judge was effectively summarising the Prosecution’s case twice.

Solicitor General Cheryll Richards in response pointed out that the trial judge had included cross-examination evidence as well. She said the purpose was to help jurors prepare for the Defence case that was coming.

The other ground of appeal had to do with corroboration.

The main evidence against Tibbetts came from Michael Gause. But he was an accomplice who had already pleaded guilty in the US. Therefore the judge had to direct the jury that it would be unsafe to convict Tibbetts without corroborating or supporting evidence from other sources.

Mr. Wood argued that the judge wrongly identified three such pieces of evidence.