The evidence – day by day

A look at the evidence during the trial of McKeeva Bush. 

DAY 1 – Prosecutor Duncan Penny opens the case for the crown, describing it as a “simple story of a powerful man who abused his position” in an effort to enrich himself. He outlines how McKeeva Bush withdrew money “using his government card and personal cards interchangeably” in casinos across the U.S. and the Bahamas between the latter part of 2009 and early 2010, using the money to gamble in slot machines. He said Mr. Bush had made cash withdrawals for “large sums” in the “small hours of the morning” for his own gambling, fully aware that the government card was not intended for that purpose. 

DAY 2 – Mr. Penny takes the jury through all 11 trips covered by the indictment, outlining how the then-premier’s casino loyalty cards recorded slot machine losses totaling roughly US$272,000 during a series of all-night gambling sessions. He cross-references the times Mr. Bush was recorded as being on slot machines with the times of the cash withdrawals, telling the jury the only conceivable conclusion is that Mr. Bush used the money – including nearly $50,000 drawn on his government card – for gambling. In a single four-day trip to Vegas, he says, Mr. Bush lost US$60,000 in slots. Around US$10,000 of expenses racked up on the government card were not repaid until Mr. Bush realized he was being investigated more than two years later, Mr. Penny says.  

DAY 3 – Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson takes the stand and admits he made a mistake by giving a statement to police that could have left the impression there was a policy against using government cards for personal use prior to July 2010. He acknowledges there was no such policy and accepts that credit card expense claim forms, with a field in which individuals could include a total amount for personal expenditure, and an internal memo, produced by the defense, suggest that some form of personal use was permissible. He says he does not think the memo intended to convey that ministers could use the credit card for whatever spending they felt like as long as they refunded the money. 

DAY 4 – Sonia McLaughlin, the former deputy chief financial officer, speaks by video link from Florida, telling the court how she was asked to find credit card statements and other documents for Mr. Bush and four others following a police request in November 2012. Kerrilyn Rivers, an accounts officer in Mr. Bush’s ministry, testifies that the former premier would highlight his credit card statements indicating personal expenses and repay the amount, usually by check. Mr. Bush’s personal assistant Jodie Whittaker testifies that she has no recollection of ever receiving a memo and spreadsheet – said to have been sent to Mr. Bush in late 2010 – indicating that he still owed around $10,000 for personal expenses on his government card. 

DAY 5 – Wendy Manzanares, the chief financial officer in Mr. Bush’s ministry at the time, tells the court that the former premier would occasionally write blank checks to cover his personal credit card expenditure, relying on his staff to fill in the correct amounts. She accepts that a system of finance staff sending memos to Mr. Bush requesting payment of his personal expenses had fallen down in 2010 and acknowledges that it is possible he gave blank checks to cover expenditure during this period. She says she delivered a memo and spreadsheet highlighting the $10,000 in unaccounted for personal expenditure to Mr. Bush’s assistant in December 2010, following up with an email in January 2011. 

DAY 6 – Deputy Governor Franz Manderson testifies that he never used his government credit card for personal use and considered it “wrong” to do so. “The way I viewed it, if we are spending other people’s money, it’s not ours, so we had to do that in the most judicious way possible. It is the people’s money,” Mr. Manderson tells the court 

DAY 7 – A series of emails from former governor Duncan Taylor to a foreign office official about the investigation into Mr. Bush are produced by the defense to support a theory that there was a conspiracy to bring down the former premier. The emails, which include a suggestion from Mr. Taylor that he will enjoy a “quiet bottle of bubbly” if Mr. Bush is charged with criminal offenses are read to Mr. Manderson, who denies being involved in any such plot, saying this is the first time he has seen the messages. Mr. Taylor’s emails also include a suggestion that the foreign office brief London journalists “without leaving fingerprints” to the effect that Mr. Bush should step down, and they appear to display an apparent eagerness to have charges brought before an election. Jonathan Marquez, a supervisor in the fraud department of a company called Global Cash Access, explains the system of ATMs and credit card cash advance machines the company operates in casinos across the U.S., indicating that “laser checks” in the evidence bundle show that Mr. Bush made cash against signature withdrawals on his government card in the Venetian casino in Las Vegas. 

DAY 8 – A Florida casino finance boss explains how Mr. Bush’s gambling losses were tracked through his personal customer loyalty card. Tracey Almeida, director of casino finance for Seminole gaming, which operates seven casinos in Florida, talks the jury through what the records show about some of the activity on Mr. Bush’s customer card at the Seminole casinos, including losses of more than $21,000 in one 24-hour period. She says it is possible to bet up to $1,000 on a single spin on a slot machine. 

DAY 9 – The chief financial officer in Mr. Bush’s ministry tells how she flagged “unusual” cash withdrawals made on his government credit card with her chief officer – Carson Ebanks – and was told there was “no policy” against such transactions “as long as it was paid back.” Josephine Sambula accepts she annotated an online printout of one of Mr. Bush’s statements with question marks and other notations and raised the issue with Mr. Ebanks. After being told that cash withdrawals were OK as long as the government was not short-changed, she says she never raised the issue again and helped set up a system where Mr. Bush’s credit card statements were sent to him along with a memo asking him to highlight personal payments and make reimbursements. She acknowledges that she previously sent a memo to civil servants – prior to Mr. Bush taking office – stating that government credit cards were for official purposes only. 

DAY 10 – A halt in proceedings as Mr. Bush’s defense team makes a submission that there is no case to answer – a hearing that was unreportable until now. After a day of legal arguments, the judge rules that the case can go on. 

DAY 11 – Prosecutor Mr. Penny delivers his closing speech after the defense confirms that Mr. Bush will not be taking the stand and no further witnesses will be called. Mr. Penny says the credit card and slot machine records show “beyond dispute” that Mr. Bush used cash from his card to gamble and insists he should not have needed a detailed written policy to realize this was wrong. He says it was “blindingly obvious” that this was not what the card was for and suggests Mr. Bush lied about how he used the card because he knew he was abusing his power. He says there is no evidence of a conspiracy, no “evil agents of the state” on “all those casino floors” and urges the jury to return guilty verdicts. 

DAY 12 – Mr. Bush’s lawyer Geoffrey Cox, QC, has his turn to address the jury, saying h
is client is the victim of a “disgraceful” and “cynical” plot to remove him from office led by former governor Mr. Taylor, who he says was pursuing a “personal vendetta.” Mr. Cox says, “Mac Bush is an innocent man,” and suggests if there has been any misconduct in a public office, it is from the former governor and others, who he says colluded to oust a democratically elected premier from office. He said evidence from financial officers showed that Mr. Bush had acted within the rules when he made cash withdrawals in casinos. The fact that no one else had been even censured for personal use of a government card is evidence, says Mr. Cox, that his client was being victimized. 

DAY 13 – Justice Michael Mettyear recaps the evidence and gives legal directions to the jury, telling them that the motivations of the governor have only limited relevance to the case. He cautions the jury that it is a court of law, not a court of morals, and urges them to resist judging Mr. Bush for his gambling and focus on the criminal charges. The prosecution must prove, he says, that Mr. Bush knowingly breached the public’s trust when he withdrew cash on the government credit line to gamble. He sends the jury out to deliberate just before 1 p.m. The jury does not reach a verdict and are sent home for the night. 

DAY 14 – The jurors unanimously find Mr. Bush not guilty on all 11 charges. 

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