Money service charges dropped

Two men accused of running a money services business without a licence had all charges against them dropped last week.

The files of Eustace Jeffers and Rico Montemayor were marked ‘Withdrawn at request of the Crown, Case dismissed, Defendant discharged’ on 11 November.

Crown Counsel John Masters made the request before Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale. Both men were present with their attorneys.

Mr. Jeffers had been employed with Cayman National Bank until his arrest.

Informal records kept by the Caymanian Compass indicate that he first appeared in Summary Court on 1 July, 2008. On that date, Crown Counsel John Masters told the court that the case needed to be linked up with Mr. Montemayor.

He explained that Mr. Montemayor was charged with operating a money services business without a licence and the allegation was that Mr. Jeffers aided and abetted him.

The matter came to court again later that month and then in August.

On 16 September, 2008, Mr. Masters explained further that Mr. Montemayor was accused of running the illegal money service and when it was brought to Mr. Jeffers’ attention it was stopped. The Crown alleged that Mr. Jeffers then involved himself in a subsequent illegal money service.

On 23 September, 2008, Defence Attorney Clyde Allen said Mr. Montemayor would be ‘taking a certain course’ but he wanted to make sure of the time frame alleged. The matter was adjourned and Mr. Jeffers’ along with it.

On 16 December, 2008, it was determined that the two men were not to be jointly charged. Mr. Jeffers then entered his plea of not guilty and trial was set for 23 March, 2009.

Meanwhile, Mr. Allen put forward a legal argument on behalf of Mr. Montemayor. His client had pleaded guilty to an offence under the Money Services Law. It related to his admission that he had used his personal bank account to receive money from Filipino nationals in Cayman and then forward it to their relatives in the Philippines. He is a Filipino.

Mr. Allen argued that the charge was one that could be tried in Summary Court only. That meant the charge had to be brought within six months from the date on which evidence sufficient to justify proceedings came to the knowledge of a competent complainant.

The chief magistrate heard evidence and ruled that the charge should have been brought in December 2007, but was not laid until January 2008. She concluded the matter was out of time and therefore the court had no jurisdiction to accept Mr. Montemayor’s guilty plea (Caymanian Compass, 18 February, 2009).

When Mr. Jeffers returned to court for his trial in March, Mr. Masters said further charges had been laid: theft and obtaining a money transfer by deception. The next day he advised that the Crown wished to take the matter to Grand Court.

Mr. Jeffers’ attorney, Anthony Akiwumi, opposed the application. He said the new charges appeared to be a blatant attempt to circumvent the order the chief magistrate had made when she ruled in Mr. Montemayor’s case that the court had no jurisdiction because the charge had been brought out of time.

‘With a great deal of fanfare yesterday, my learned friend said new charges were always contemplated, yet we have the prosecution proceeding with ‘summary only’ matters and then on the day of trial he asks to adjourn the trial. That is the most blatant manipulation of the process, resulting in manifest unfairness,’ Mr. Akiwumi stated.

‘My client is a respectable man with many years in the financial industry. His employment with Cayman National Bank came to an end as a result of charges against him.

‘Fortunately, because his peers have confidence in his abilities, and confidence these charges are spurious, Mr. Jeffers has been employed elsewhere in the industry. Now he has to wait further for his good name to be cleared,’ Mr. Akiwumi told the court.

Mr. Masters argued that laying summary charges did not preclude the Crown from then laying indictable charges.

The chief magistrate agreed and ruled that his application to adjourn was right.

She also agreed with Mr. Akiwumi that if charges were laid for which there was no evidence, it would be an abuse of process. But the best way to discover whether there was evidence or not would be to embark on a preliminary inquiry, which is necessary before a matter can go to Grand Court.

There were two more mention dates and the preliminary inquiry was set for 1 October, when it was adjourned until 11 November.