An attorney accused of stealing more than half-million dollars has declared he plans to pay what he owes, as he insisted he never intended to deprive his client of his money.
Ernest Winston Jackman, who is charged with theft and money laundering, said on Tuesday that while he found himself in a situation where he “could not pay” his client the proceeds of the sale of a townhouse, he had made attempts to settle the outstanding debt and had already handed over half of what he is accused of stealing.
“In my mind, there was always the desire and effort to do what . . . I needed to do,” Jackman said in an unsworn statement before the jury in the No. 5 Supreme Court, adding that he regretted “the situation that occurred”.
“At this point in time, I have in process what I am hopeful and confident is a situation that would enable the right thing to be completed . . . irrespective of what happens, because I am not happy about it.”
Jackman is accused of stealing $678 414.75 from HEJ Limited between June 23, 2006 and March 5, 2007, as well as allegedly engaging in money laundering by disposing of the sum between June 23, 2006, and October 18, 2011.
John Huggins, who is the principal shareholder and managing director for HEJ Limited, previously told the court that he built five townhouses, one in which he resided and the other four he sold. He said he only received money from Jackman, who represented him in the transactions, for three of the properties. The fourth, he said, was sold on August 6, 2006 for $745 000 and he subsequently received $50 000 from Jackman after taking the matter before the Barbados Bar Association. Huggins said the lawyer had also given him three cheques but was unable to get any money from them.
However, Jackman on Tuesday said he had paid Huggins more than half of the sum allegedly stolen.
“I have been charged for this matter of depriving Mr John Huggins of $678 000. At this point in time, Mr John Huggins has been paid by me the sum of $390 000, which has left a balance of $288 414.
“Mr John Huggins produced three cheques to the court of different figures and this occurred because when I found myself in this situation where I could not pay Mr Huggins, Mr Huggins asked for interest to be paid . . . so I paid him interest on two occasions . . . pursuant to an agreement. I subsequently paid him over a period of time $390 000 and he accepted these payments. My intention was never to deprive Mr Huggins of his money,” Jackman told the court presided over by Madam Justice Pamela Beckles.
The embattled attorney, who turned up on Tuesday without any legal counsel, said efforts had also been made for an alternative method of payment to Huggins in order to settle the matter.
“There were several efforts to have that dealt with, one of which was a transfer pursuant to a discussion and an agreement for some land for Mr Huggins, but that was not completed because of the unavailability to secure a certificate of compliance. That did not stop me from trying to do what I had agreed with Mr Huggins that would be done.
“Mr Huggins said he wanted . . . $800 000-plus . . . . Documents were prepared to that effect but they were not signed off by Mr Huggins. One final effort was made to try and have the balance of the $325 000 [paid] by offering Mr Huggings other land that was free and cleared but he chose . . . to decline that.
“The point I am trying to make is it’s a situation where I well recognise that money is due to Mr Huggins, but it is a situation where I engaged Mr Huggins in having that money in cash or value returned to Mr Huggins and therefore was never at any point in time in my mind my intention to deprive Mr Huggins of what was his.”
Jackman said he regretted what had transpired.
“I told Mr Huggins that I regretted it. I apologised to him for the situation that occurred,” he told the court.
“I am not proud of it but, as I said, I just want it to be clearly understood that I never set out or had any intention to deprive Mr Huggins of his property.”
The accused lawyer did not call any witnesses to give evidence on his behalf, nor did he cross-examine the State’s witnesses.
When asked by Justice Beckles whether he wanted to cross-examine any of the seven witnesses recalled by Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney on Tuesday, he responded: “In the absence of legal counsel I am unable to cross-examine the witness” or “I am unable or prepared to cross-examine this witness”.
The matter will continue on Thursday when Jackman addresses the jury with his closing statement. [email protected]