Ewart Brown wanted share of company's business, court told
Former Premier Ewart Brown tried to get his wife on the board of a private firm pitching for business with Government and get himself a personal stake in the company, it has been alleged in court.
Businessman David Bolden claimed a Government Minister told him the Premier wanted ten percent of his wireless technology company, and for Wanda Henton Brown to be placed on the board.
Financier Mr Bolden also stated under oath in Supreme Court that the former Premier asked for a 60 percent share of the commission he earned from work on Bermuda's public pension funds.
The businessman, who said he rejected both approaches from Dr Brown, made his claims in answer to questions from a prosecutor and the judge during his trial on charges that he and wife Antoinette Bolden stole from a company they part-owned, Emerald Capital International [ECI].
Dr Brown denies the accusations and described them in a statement yesterday as “outrageous” and “a total fabrication”.
Since the allegations were not made in front of the jury in the case,
The Royal Gazette could not report them until the trial finished. Dr Brown tried unsuccessfully to prevent publication beyond the end of the trial.
He instructed lawyers Mark Pettingill and Marc Daniels, of Charter Chambers Bermuda, to represent him. In a letter to
The Royal Gazette on June 9, Mr Daniels wrote: “Any and all comments relating to Dr Brown being involved in any type of 'kick back' or payments to him or advantage from the Boldens personally or any company with which they are involved is unequivocally denied.”
After a hearing in his chambers over the issue yesterday, the Chief Justice refused to gag
The Royal Gazette from publishing this story once the jury had returned its verdict, and he ordered Dr Brown to pay our legal costs.
A few hours later, the jury cleared the Boldens of 18 counts of theft and money laundering and found them guilty of one count of misleading the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
During the trial, the jury heard about a wireless Internet project that the company in question, ECI, worked on. The project was described by the Boldens' former ECI business partner John Wright as a “next generation giant hotspot” to link Internet, telephones and high definition television.
Mr Wright, who gave evidence for the prosecution, and the Boldens, who gave evidence in their own defence, told the jury about a presentation on November 4, 2008 where the wireless project was demonstrated to Government officials including then-Premier Dr Brown at the Cabinet Office.
The Boldens were not present at the demonstration of the technology. According to them and Mr Wright, Mr Wright attended the demonstration along with representatives of SweRaCom, a Swedish company the partners were working with on the wireless project.
Antoinette Bolden said after the meeting everyone was very excited. And Mr Wright agreed with defence lawyer Saul Froomkin QC that the Government representatives were “ecstatic” about the new technology.
The Boldens and Mr Wright also told the jury that, after the SweRaCom representatives left, the three of them met to discuss the way forward.
However, they gave conflicting evidence over what happened at that meeting. The Boldens claimed Mr Wright agreed with them that they would get salaries for their work on the wireless project, and these salaries of $10,000 per month for David Bolden and $5,000 per month for Antoinette Bolden were to come from ECI. They also said Mr Wright told them their expenses would be reimbursed.
Mr Wright disputed this, saying he told them they had to raise money for salaries and expenses relating to the wireless project through a separate firm they planned to set up, called Bold.
The jury heard evidence that Bold Bermuda was incorporated on January 26, 2009 and Bold International was incorporated on February 17, 2009 in order to pursue the wireless project.
According to Mr Wright, the Boldens were not authorised to draw funds from ECI relating to this project, and when they did so, it was theft.
Mr Bolden's allegations about Dr Brown came when prosecutor Susan Mulligan asked him, during cross-examination on June 8, why he did not attend the Cabinet Office presentation on November 4, 2008.
Before he had chance to answer the question, another of the Boldens' defence lawyers, Andrew Martin, asked to address the trial judge, Chief Justice Richard Ground, in the absence of the jury.
Once the jury went out, Mr Martin explained: “The area into which we're going, and some of the answers which may come out, may have somewhat of an inflammatory effect.”
Mr Martin said he felt it was appropriate for the Chief Justice to hear the answers in the absence of the jury as “my concern would be that the answers may be publicised in the newspaper and that may have a detrimental effect on the course of these proceedings”.
The Chief Justice then asked Mr Bolden why he was not present at the meeting with Government.
Mr Bolden replied: “The former Premier Ewart Brown had asked me to pay him 60 percent of any Government business that I had previously.”
When Mr Froomkin complained he could not hear what Mr Bolden was saying, his client repeated: “The former Premier Ewart Brown had previously asked me to pay him 60 percent of any Government business I had. I refused to do that. I did not want to go to this meeting and find myself in a situation where another approach would be made.”
He said of his concern: “This was something I made aware to all the parties involved.”
Prosecutor Susan Mulligan probed Mr Bolden further about the context and timing relating to his allegation about Dr Brown.
He told her: “This was just a couple of years ago. It was a well-publicised case in terms of pension funds.”
Ms Mulligan asked: “And those pension funds were Government funds?”
Mr Bolden replied: “Yes ma'am. As well, an overture was made after the company was set up. [The] Bold [company] ma'am.”
The prosecutor asked: “This is before the test meeting?”
Mr Bolden replied: “This is the asking for payments was before, the asking for participation in the company was after.”
Ms Mulligan inquired: “He asked for payment in relation to the pension funds. Was it a fund you were administering?”
Mr Bolden replied: “No. Commissions.”
Ms Mulligan asked by whom the overture was made after the Bold wireless technology company was formed.
Mr Bolden replied: “By one of the Government Ministers, that the Premier would like to have ten percent of the company and his wife be placed on the board.”
The Chief Justice asked Mr Bolden: “So you're saying the Premier, in respect of unrelated business, had before the meeting asked you for a share of any Government business?”
“Yes,” said Mr Bolden, saying he was afraid if he attended the test meeting, the issue would come up again, which it did.
The Chief Justice asked: “It came up again because another Minister came and asked you for ten percent?”
Mr Bolden replied: “Yes.”
Ms Mulligan said she thought Mr Bolden should be permitted to give some answer before the jury. She suggested to the court that Mr Bolden could give a fair and honest answer that he did not attend the meeting because he was concerned over a conflict with a Member of Parliament.
Mr Martin said: “I don't have any suggestion. I just wanted to avoid it becoming a distraction from the real issues in this case.”
He suggested the “real issues in the case” unfolded at the subsequent meeting between the ECI partners, where the issue of salaries and expenses for the Boldens was discussed.
The Chief Justice said: “I would hate to do anything to distract the jury from that meeting.”
He went on: “It's rather difficult because one doesn't like editing the facts but I don't want a hoo-ha about this.”
He expressed concern that “when mud gets thrown around it sticks God knows where on the jury's mind”
Following Ms Mulligan's suggestion that Mr Bolden could say he was “conflicted”, the judge asked him: “Are you content with just saying that? I don't want to edit you either. It's your evidence.”
Mr Bolden indicated he was and the lawyers for both sides indicated they agreed.
This meant the allegations did not come out in evidence in front of the jury, with Mr Bolden merely telling them “I was conflicted” in respect of the meeting with Government representatives.
The jury did not hear any evidence that the discussions with Government over the wireless project ever moved beyond discussions.
Dr Brown was not present in court when the exchange occurred. He later instructed lawyers to try to delay this newspaper from publishing Bolden's claims while he sought further legal advice.
During the hearing in the Chief Justice's chambers relating to that matter yesterday morning, Dr Brown's lawyer, Mark Pettingill, explained Dr Brown wanted a reporting ban and planned to seek an injunction. He also told the Chief Justice his client wished to instruct London Queens Counsel to represent him.
Mr Pettingill said Dr Brown and his wife had been “defamed” by Mr Bolden.
He added: “Their position is unequivocal; the defendant perjured himself in making these defamatory remarks.”
The Royal Gazette contested Dr Brown's attempt to stop us publishing this story, and our lawyer, Jeffrey Elkinson, addressed the Chief Justice saying freedom of the press must prevail.
Mr Elkinson made reference to a previous action in 2007 brought by Dr Brown, when the Supreme Court refused to gag the media from reporting further revelations from a leaked police dossier on the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal.
After hearing from the lawyers, the Chief Justice ruled against delaying further the publication of the material, saying he had no power to make such an order.
He ordered Dr Brown to pay
The Royal Gazette's legal costs relating to the action.
Dr Brown issued a statement after the hearing, saying of Mr Bolden's allegations: “This outrageous accusation is a total fabrication.”
He condemned Mr Bolden for bringing his wife Wanda Brown's name into it and said: “This will result in a separate legal response.”
Mr Pettingill said Dr Brown planned to mount a private prosecution against Mr Bolden, alleging he had committed perjury.
Last night the Deputy Governor David Arkley and Premier Paula Cox commented on the allegations made in court.
Mr Arkley said: “Naturally we at Government House were aware of the allegations made during the case. We will consider these allegations with the appropriate authorities.”
A spokeswoman for Premier Paula Cox issued this statement: “These matters are linked to legal proceedings which still could be subject to appeal. However, it is important that allegations of this type are investigated by the appropriate authorities to determine if there are any indications of impropriety.”