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“I am no thief” says Barbados lawyer on trial for theft and money laundering

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By Barbados Today May 28, 2019

Accused lawyer Vonda Minerva Pile

(BARBADOS TODAY) — “At no time in my 27 years as an attorney . . . and up to today’s date, I maintain I have never been dishonest in any deals with Mr [Anstey] King,” accused lawyer Vonda Minerva Pile on Monday declared.

The attorney-at-law also told a nine-member jury that she was charged with theft and money laundering offences back in July 2011 “without . . . proper policing”.

Pile made the statements as she put forward her defence in the No. 5 Supreme Court this afternoon where she is facing a jury on charges that she stole US$96,008.22 belonging to her former client, Anstey King, between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010 and that she engaged in the disposal of the proceeds of crime during that time.

She has pleaded not guilty to the two-count indictment.

In an unsworn statement before the Madam Justice Pamela Beckles, the lawyer explained that she first met King when he engaged her services in buying his house at Strathclyde. He later requested her services in late 2008 when he was looking for another parcel of land in Barbados.

The attorney who is representing herself revealed that King was first interested in property at Walmer Lodge, St Michael however, after making her own checks she advised him against getting the property as it was heading towards foreclosure.

Pile said she instead told him of her client, Angela Yearwood, who had property in Maxwell, Christ Church.

“At the time she was going through some problems and she wanted the property subdivided . . . . I indicated to Mr King about Ms Yearwood’s property in Maxwell and he expressed an interest in it,” Pile said adding that she went ahead and prepared the necessary agreements and informed King that there were two other interested parties.

“I said to him since she was my good client I would convince her to sell the property to him as opposed to the others. I indicated that he should send down the funds so I could say to her the funds are here,” she said and disclosed that the documents were prepared and sent to King in New York who had them notorised, signed, returned and she subsequently received US$20,000.

The vendor she said kept calling about finalising the sale and about the balance of the money as she (the vendor) indicated “she has problems and she is not well”. King, she said, eventually sent the money but the calls from “my client vendor” stopped and “I was subsequently informed that she is deceased”.

King, she claimed, then called her indicating that the property she sold him did not belong to the vendor and that it was landlocked and he had no access.

“I said that was not true . . . . He said ‘I want back my money’.

She claimed she then informed him that since the vendor was deceased “You have to wait until her estate is probated because I am her executrix,” but King called and said he was having difficulties.

“I said to him I would send back to you $100,000 . . . . [and] I have no difficulty sending back whatever rest to you but you are preventing the vendor from selling to some else . . . there is a forfeiture clause, you have to forfeit the deposit. He says he is not going to forfeit any deposit. I said to him you haven’t paid my fees and he knew what my fees were. He says he is not paying me any fees either.

“I said to him if that is decision then my decision is that until this estate is probated I cannot deal with anything further until I have the letters testamentary from the Supreme Court of Barbados,” said Pile who revealed that subsequent to that, King, through another lawyer, put her in the High Court in a civil case which was later ruled in her favor.

Police subsequently came to her Imperial Law Chambers indicating that King had made a complaint that she had stolen his money and all files pertaining to him were confiscated.

“I indicated to officer [Sergeant Heather] Pinder and the other officer with her that I did not steal any money belonging to Mr King that this was all part of a land transaction. I asked her if Mr King had indicated this to them and she indicated to me no he did not . . . that was in 2011. I asked her how can I be charged for theft when you have not investigated this matter. . . . I found it rather strange that before you conclude or complete an investigation you will be charging me with theft . . . you will be charging me with money laundering for a matter, that when it started, was for sale of property.”

Pile also admitted that she returned some funds to her former client on the basis that “he was encountering some problems in New York and wished to have access to some funds,” but in relation to everything else “he was told that any further monies are to wait until probation of the estate”.

However, she said, King “without waiting for that went to the police. Police without doing proper policing . . . police without ascertaining the correctness and accuracy of the statements I made charged me in 2011”.

“At no time in my 27 years as an attorney and at no time within the 27 years within which I bought Mr King’s property at Strathclyde for him, was there ever any dishonesty on my part and up to today’s date I maintain I have never been dishonest in any deals with Mr King,” Pile stated before informing that court that she will be calling one witness to give evidence on her behalf tomorrow.

Moments before her unsworn statement, the prosecutor, Senior Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney called Sergeant Ian Weeks to give evidence.

He stated that Pile was charged for theft and money laundering based on evidence gathered and “not on whether the land was landlocked”. He also revealed that the agreement between the parties and the conveyance were all dated January 8, 2009, which he had “never seen both . . . on the same date or in a short span of time” in the three and a half years working with the Fraud Squad.

The former Commissioner of Land Tax, Wayne Forde, also gave evidence on behalf of the Crown. Making reference to a conveyance, which is an exhibit in the case, he said it was a “draft document” as it did not have the necessaries such as a date or stamp and that according to his research King was not registered as the owner of the parcel of land at Maxwell, Christ Church.

“I have never seen an agreement and conveyance dated the same,” he stated adding that he did not know whether it was illegal to have the same dates on such documents.

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