CoI told no evidence to support fraud claims against Sir John Swan – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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CoI told no evidence to support fraud claims against Sir John Swan

Sir John Swan

Sir John Swan said he legally purchased a plot of land in Sandys that was the subject of a complaint before the Commission of Inquiry.

The family of the late John Augustus Alexander Virgil claimed he lost four acres of land in the Spring Benny area in 1969 through a “fraudulent scheme” that involved the former Premier.

But lawyer Kim White, counsel for Sir John, said there was no evidence that he was involved in any fraud whatsoever or that his 1970 purchase of the property was improper.

He said: “It’s easy to throw these things out, but they must be supported by some sort of evidence.”

Charles Brown, who represented the beneficiaries of Mr Virgil’s estate, told the Commission of Inquiry that documents that show the purported sale and conveyance of the land from Mr Virgil to Emmanuel Augustus in 1969 were fraudulent.

He claimed those documents were then used in the 1970 purchase of the land by Sir John.

Mr Brown added: “John Swan is directly connected to both transactions.

“Russell Levi Pearman acted as the agent for Sir John when the 1969 transactions were being carried out involving Mr Virgil and Mr Augustus.

“Mr Pearman fraudulently submitted a plan to the planning department for a subdivision of the property into eight lots. John Swan sold these lots to the current residents.”

Asked directly if he was accusing Sir John of fraud, Mr Brown said the land sale was a complex “scheme” in which Sir John was a major player.

Mr Brown said: “The short answer may be yes, but the context is just as important as the ’yes’ itself.”

Mr White however said there was no evidence to suggest that Sir John was involved in any fraud or misrepresentation by Mr Pearman.

Mr Brown responded that in a police statement Mr Augustus said “quite clearly” that he was a client of Sir John and was advised by Sir John to purchase the property.

Mr Brown did withdraw comments about the law firm Cox Hallett Wilkinson made in previous hearings, saying that any references in previous hearings to the firm should have referenced David Wilkinson “in his own capacity, or as an associate with the now-defunct firm Cox Wilkinson”.

Mr Brown told the Commission last year that the land was supposedly transferred from Mr Virgil to Mr Pearman for £7,000 in 1969, only for the property to be sold on the same day to Mr Augustus for £18,000.

Commissioners heard it was then sold to Sir John in 1970 for £60,000 with a “flurry” of conveyances following soon after.

Mr Brown added that the beneficiaries had “critical documents and supporting evidence” – including title deeds from 1885 – that backed their claim to the land.

Barbara Brown, Mr Virgil’s niece, told the Commission the deeds have always been of high importance to her and her family because of the “constant dishonesty they had faced.

She said her Uncle John had regularly visited the land and talked proudly about how he would will it to his seven nieces and nephews.

Ms Brown said she had repeatedly written letters to both the Bank of Butterfield and Appleby about her uncle’s property, but to no avail.

She added: “Today is a great day for me and my family because it seems we finally have somebody to listen to us, hear us.”

Mr White however said Ms Brown and her family has brought multiple unsuccessful complaints to court against Sir John between 1982 and 2001 and costs were ordered against her.

Ms Brown said: “This is about a fraud case. That was civil.”

Mr White also referenced the 1982 case, in which the Court found Ms Brown and her family had not provided any evidence to support their allegations and they had no cause of action.

The Commission also heard evidence from Brenda Petty, a US forensic document examiner, said she had compared signatures from Mr Virgil to those used in conveyance documents for the property.

Ms Petty said she received only two confirmed signatures from Mr Virgil – one from his will and one from the 1950s – which limited her ability to make an analysis.

She said there were similarities between the confirmed signatures and the question signatures, but there also appeared to be a decline in writing in the conveyance documents that “did not appear to be logical”.

Ms Petty said: “These were all supposed to be signed at the same time.

“The forgetting of a letter when someone is writing their own name and strokes formed after the fact usually represents someone that is attempting to simulate another person’s handwriting.”

She added that some of the letter appeared to be written in “stops and starts” rather than continuous movements – another sign of simulation.