· Court finds former permanent secretary Henry Murray guilty of 11 counts of official corruption
· He defrauded the government of $700,000
· Murray’s wife Rose acquitted of 16 counts of false pretence and was set free
· Murray will be sentenced at a later date
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
THE court last Friday found former permanent secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) Henry Murray guilty of defrauding the government of more than $700,000.
But his wife Rose was acquitted of 16 counts of false pretense.
Murray was found guilty of 11 counts of official corruption for corruptly receiving $707,550 between 2014 and 2017 from vehicle hires.
Chief Magistrate Emma Garo however, found Murray not guilty of three of the official corruption charges involving $188,450.
“Krash Transport and Marketing is not a separate entity from the defendant Henry Murray and the defendant Rose Murray,” Ms Garo said in her ruling.
“They are in law and in fact one and the same person,” she added.
“Viewed in this context, the only conclusion to draw on the evidence is that the defendant, Henry Murray has put himself in a conflict of interest situation when he issued the certification of road worthiness of the vehicles owned by Krash Transport and Marketing, granted approval of the hiring of Krash Transport and Marketing in Government Hire Agreements, and granted approval for payments to be made to Krash Transport and Marketing.
“The conduct in this goes beyond a mere conflict of interest and transcends to a clear situation, based on the undisputed evidence, where the acts of Henry Murray conducted in an official capacity have directly resulted in a personal benefit to him.
“The explanation by the defendant Henry Murray in his evidence is that he was by virtue of his conditions and obligations, obligated by law to sign and certify the agreements and approve payment, is not tenable and is an argument that is inherently flawed and is bound to fail,” Ms Garo said.
She said the reality of the case on the basis of the evidence presented is that Henry Murray’s conduct effectively amounts to discharging his duty, on the one hand, by way of signing certifications and payments with his right hand, in order to receive personal benefits of discharging his official duties with his left hand.
She added that Murray carried out actions in his official capacity as a public servant, namely signing of certifications, approval of Government vehicle hire agreements, and approval of payments from which he has derived a direct personal benefit, namely the vehicle hire payments.
“The arguments of the defence that he obligated to carry out the official acts from which he derived a personal benefit do not constitute an offence in law or fact are misconceived.
“If I were to accept the defence arguments on this point, I would be undermining the whole purpose of the corruption law by giving all public officials a free reign to derive personal benefits from ‘obligated’ official function.”
In relation to the three counts of official corruption that Murray was acquitted, Ms Garo said the prosecution’s case stand on the evidence of the Under Secretary Jimmy Nuake.
Ms Garo said a common feature in these three charges is the prosecution case that Murray directed Mr Nuake to approve the vehicle hire agreement, and expenditure payments to Krash Transport and the Hire Agreement.
It was heard that Mr Nuake agreed he signed the agreements after he had discussion with Murray in which Murray had informed him he had declared his business activities with the Leadership Commission.
It was also heard that Mr Nuake sent an email to the Secretary to Cabinet and raised his concerns in the email.
“It is clear that Mr Nuake despite the reservations he has about whether or not he should sign the agreements and authorise payments, and without waiting for the Secretary to Cabinet to respond to his query, he took it upon himself to sign.
“There is evidence of discussions with the defendant Murray about declarations made to the Leadership Code.”
Ms Garo said there is simply no conclusive or compelling evidence of Mr Nuake being directed by the defendant Henry Murray to sign the agreements and requisitions in respect to the three official corruption charges and therefore found prosecution has not proven these three charges beyond reasonable doubt.
Murray’s wife Rose was also not found guilty of the 16 counts of false pretence against her.
“On the evidence before the court, the fact that the defendant Rose Murray signed her maiden name, Rose Tome, on the relevant vehicle hire agreements, cannot in any way be said to be decisive even in causing or substantially contributing to monies being paid to Krash Transport and Marketing,” Ms Garo said in her judgment.
Ms Garo said there is no evidence that signing the vehicle hire agreements in her maiden name, as opposed to her married name, would have made any difference whatsoever in terms of obtaining the benefit under the agreement.
“The casual link between the alleged false presence (signing of the maiden name as opposed to the married name) and the obtaining of the benefit/money under the vehicle hire agreements has not been established by the prosecution on the evidence.
“Further, I am not convinced on the basis of the evidence before me that prosecution has proven that the signing by Rose Murray of her maiden name, as opposed to her married name, was done with the specific intention to defraud.
“All charges against the defendant Rose Murray, must therefore necessarily fail.”
But Ms Garo pointed out that the real issue here is that the prosecution appears to have chosen the charge offences which are clearly wrong and inappropriate based upon the evidence and facts placed before the court.
She said the basis of the prosecution arguments in court appeared to be that the Defendant, Rose Murray had participated in and/or benefited from a corrupt act or enterprise, and yet the charges did not reflect that scenario.
The Murrays were arrested and charged by the anti-corruption task force JANUS in relation to a transport hire company they set up in 2014, when Murray was employed as the Director of Mechanical Engineering Division.
Murray will appear in court again on May 14 for sentencing submissions and mitigation.
L & L Lawyers is representing Murray and his wife while public prosecutors Florence Joel and Dalcy Belapitu appeared for the crown.