Simeon Pope at court, March 12, 2013
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
On more than one occasion in 2010 Simeon Pope collected monies from three men promising to secure the purchase of government-owned vehicles knowing that he was not in authority to do so, according to Prosecution.
Pope's trial commenced before a nine member jury and High Court Judge Albert Redhead today, March 12.
Pope, a Vincentian national pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obtaining property by deception. Pope who is on bail has opted to defend himself during the trial which is expected to last one week.
The crown is being represented by Prosecutors Christlyn Benjamin and Sarah Benjamin.
During her opening and only address to the jury, Senior Crown Counsel Christlyn Benjamin said the jury would recall that the last time Pope was present in court he was asked by the Judge who is his lawyer and he said God; however, Justice Redhead then asked him who is his earthly lawyer and he said himself.
She told the jury that Pope has chosen to represent himself, "so don´t feel sorry for him, and say oh poor thing he doesn´t have a lawyer."
She explained that due to the fact that Pope is representing himself the Crown can only directly address the jury once; hence, there will be no closing address by the crown on conclusion of the case. She also told the jury that they may have seen Pope around especially during the elections, but urged them not to allow that to negatively or positively influenced their decision.
Benjamin said the Crown´s case is that Pope deceived Alvin James, Peter Robinson and Harold John into letting them believe that as an employee of the Public Works Department (PWD) he could have helped them in securing the purchase of old government vehicles. She said the jury will hear that Pope took the monies from the men for down payment, but they never supplied any vehicle.
She told the jury that they will hear that Pope approached the men who were not aware of government´s procedure in relation to the sale of vehicles, but he told them that they will have make down payment to him.
Benjamin stated that the men will testify that they only gave him the money because they knew and trusted him. The Prosecutor said Pope was armed with the information that no down payment was required, but he literally hunted the men down for the down payments.
She said in all three cases no bids were submitted to the procurement unit under the Finance Ministry for the purchase of any of the vehicles in relation to the three complaints or Pope during the times in question.
The jury heard a brief synopsis of the complainants´ stories from the prosecutor; however, stated that Pope will not be challenging the fact that he took the money from the men, but when he took the monies he was not being dishonest. Benjamin said the Crown`s case is that he was in deed dishonest in his acts. She said the Judge will guide them on this when the time comes.
Noting that the complainants are not connected in anyway, Benjamin said Alvin James, whom she identified as not being the acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, but a man that worked as a security officer at the Peebles hospital who knew Pope.
She said in February, 2012 Pope visited him at his work place and told him that the PWD is having bids for vehicles and being in need of a vehicle, James said he was interested.
Benjamin said Pope returned and informed James that he needed a down payment of $200.00, but the man did not have the cash on him. However, it was related that Pope offered to take him to the bank. She said in March 2010, Pope told James that it was finalized and he will get a bid for $800.00 therefore he needs to pay $600.00 more.
According to James, he got $200.00 from his wife and Pope loan him $400.00 and returned later that day for the $400.00 which meant that Pope was paid $800.00.
Benjamin said James related that he never saw the vehicle, but Pope told him that the truck needed fixing. James kept calling Pope and all he heard was the truck was not fixed as yet. The man subsequently made a report to the police.
The prosecution also told jurors that Peter Robinson was a handyman who had a car which was giving him problems. In June, 2010 he saw Pope who he knew and was told that he [Pope] heard that he was looking for a vehicle.
The prosecution pointed out that Pope told Robinson that he can help him with his vehicle problems and appeared to be on the phone with someone negotiating a price for a vehicle.
Benjamin said Pope asked Robinson how much he is willing to pay and he said $3,000.00. Then Pope took him to the Central Admin Complex and showed him a vehicle which had government licensed plate, and informed him that was the vehicle he will get for him.
He told Robinson that he needed the money to take to the Treasury and Robinson went to Banco Popular. While at the bank, Robinson related that Pope kept ringing down his phone.
According to Benjamin when he finished, he called Pope and he [Pope] arrived within minutes. The complainant told Pope that he wanted a receipt and he was taken to a bar in the area of OneMart and the man handed over $2,800.00 and received a receipt from Pope.
The man told police that when he saw Pope the following day, Pope said the persons who were tasked with clearing the new jeeps did not do so and he will have to wait.
Pope also allegedly asked for the additional $200.00, and the man said he only had a $100.00 and Pope said he has $96.00 and he will lend him that.
Robinson is alleging that days past and he heard nothing from Pope, and he never got the vehicle or his money back. A report was then made to police.
Meanwhile, in relation to Harold John, a security officer, prosecutors said he also knew Pope and that on June 10, 2010 he ran into Pope at Nibbs garage where he told him that he has a vehicle for him to purchase.
John told police that Pope then took up some papers from his vehicle and made a phone call where he appeared to be negotiating a price for a vehicle. He told John that he can get it for $500.00 based on what the `lady´ on the phone said. The man who only had $240.00 on him at the time provided the money to Pope.
The man will testify that later Pope said the `lady´ is now selling for $700.00. According to John, on June 11, 2010 Pope visited his work place and collected $260.00.
The man told police that he began to call Pope periodically, but Pope then became abusive towards him, and then told him to reach him at the ferry dock so he can take him to see the vehicle.
He said Pope never showed and stopped taking his calls. A report was then made to the Road Town Police station.
Benjamin told the jury that in August 2010 at the Festival Village Pope saw John and told him that he knew he did him wrong and asked for John to forgive him.
John told officers that the following night, a fellow security officer went to him and gave him $500.00 and told him something.
At this point, Benjamin told the jury not to let the fact that Pope returned John´s money cloud their judgment because police were already involved in the matter as Pope was charged on June 23, 2010.
She said during the trial they will also hear from some government officials including from PWD and Head of the Procurement Unit under the Ministry of Finance.
She said they will hear that the unit is solely responsible for the sale of all government assets and they will also hear from PWD official that the department does not sell or negotiate the sale or pricing of any government vehicle.
The trial continues.