Bouchard tells court letter to Handford was ‘not a contract’

A letter she wrote to James Bruce Handford on May 28, 2010 was “not a contract,” Michelle Bouchard told the court on Monday.

She was being cross-examined by lead prosecutor Simon Russell-Flint about bank transactions the Crown alleges were the means by which Bouchard stole more than $2 million from Mr. Handford between May, 2010 and October 2012.

Bouchard, an interior designer, was living at the time in Mr. Handford’s condo, where she had her own bedroom.

Mr. Handford was leaving Cayman after May 30, 2010, to spend the summer in his native Australia.

The letter Bouchard wrote tells him that while he is gone she will pay for the following items, including but not limited to, outstanding invoices, utility bills, maintenance fees, strata fees, construction costs and advertising costs, furnishings for a house he was having built at the Yacht Club.

She said she would also collect his mail from his Bodden Town mail box and she would collect the rent from his tenants.

The letter then thanks him for offering to purchase some jewelry that had been recently reduced in price by over 50 percent.

She noted that not all retailers accepted checks, so she would make some purchases on her personal credit card and get those funds along with her project coordination fees from the joint bank account he had opened on May 25, 2010.

Bouchard told the court the purpose of the letter was to confirm she could buy some jewelry for her birthday in advance.

Asked why she went into such detail, she said she had been an independent businesswoman for many years; it was force of habit.

Mr. Russell-Flint suggested the letter showed that she knew that the joint account “was not an unrestricted account for you to buy anything you wanted.”

Bouchard replied, “Well, I’m just going to say that changed very shortly after the letter was written.”

Her project coordination fees were $100 per hour. She did not send invoices to Mr. Handford because, earlier on when she worked at OBM, she had kept everything in a binder to show him. “He asked me to stop because he wasn’t interested in details.”

She pointed out that he received monthly statements from the bank for the joint account.

Mr. Russell-Flint asked why she had transferred $900,000 from her personal account at Butterfield Bank to banks in Canada or Scotiabank in Cayman between Sept. 28 and Oct. 10, 2012. Bouchard explained that she had received her student visa on Sept. 14.

She could not own more than two properties in Cayman without a trade and business license, so she had transferred the money in order to buy income property in Canada, where she is from.

The jury has already heard that Bouchard was arrested on Oct. 10, 2012. She said she was shocked and thought the complainant was Mr. Handford’s daughter, Susan van Dijk, who had come to Cayman in late September that year.

Mr. Russell-Flint pointed out on Friday that, after her arrest, Bouchard was asked about her relationship to Mr. Handford and she had replied, “No comment.”

She told the court that she had given a “no comment” interview on the advice of her then-attorney, who could not be present. She gave prepared statements in May and June 2013 in which she said she and Mr. Handford had become engaged in late March or early April 2012.

At that time, her then-attorney expressed that he thought the matter was civil, not criminal, she said. An inquiry was made as to whether Mr. Handford had a lawyer whom her lawyer could speak to. “It never occurred to me I would get charged,” she said.

Asked why she did not “waive any entitlement” because the situation was “a terrible misunderstanding,” she said she was concerned she would be perceived as being guilty if money and jewelry were returned.

Mr. Russell-Flint concluded his questioning Monday, after which defense counsel Peter Carter was scheduled to re-examine any issues.