Crown links cash to cheques

Rob Antle
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Prosecutors allege bank withdrawals provided opportunities for bribes

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle sought to undermine Jim Walsh's credibility Thursday, linking cash withdrawals he made at ATMs to alleged bribes and calling his previous testimony "illogical."

Walsh rebutted her allegations in a series of testy exchanges that saw him call the man he is accused of bribing a "psychopath." He repeated over and over that he was let down by officials at the House of Assembly who should have red-flagged any improper claims.

Former MHA Jim Walsh leaves the stand after testifying at his fraud trial at provincial court Thursday morning. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle sought to undermine Jim Walsh's credibility Thursday, linking cash withdrawals he made at ATMs to alleged bribes and calling his previous testimony "illogical."

Walsh rebutted her allegations in a series of testy exchanges that saw him call the man he is accused of bribing a "psychopath." He repeated over and over that he was let down by officials at the House of Assembly who should have red-flagged any improper claims.

Knickle led Walsh through a series of banking transactions that she alleged gave him the opportunity to pay kickbacks to House director of finance Bill Murray.

Walsh vigorously denied the allegations.

One example happened Sept. 12, 2002.

Walsh's banking records showed him making a $400 cash withdrawal from an ATM around 11 a.m.

At 11:22 a.m., government financial documents indicate, one of Walsh's constituency allowance claims was processed and a cheque was cut.

The cheque - for $3,064 - was deposited into Walsh's personal bank account less than half an hour later, at 11:50 a.m.

Knickle led Walsh through about 10 separate similar occurrences in 2002 and 2003. One involved a cheque from the MHA to Murray's company, Unique Keepsakes.

Earlier, Murray had testified he accepted cash payments from Walsh - which he considered "tokens of appreciation" - to process excess constituency allowance claims during the same time period, after Walsh had reached his spending limit.

Knickle argued the series of withdrawals showed a pattern.

"These are providing you very clear opportunities to give Mr. Murray some money," she said.

Walsh disagreed.

"The pattern is a pattern because you're making it fit, but you're not giving the true story," he told the court.

"Don't make the jump from there that I ran back to Confederation Building to give money to Bill Murray."

Knickle also pressed Walsh on who filled out his constituency allowance claim forms.

Evidence indicates that Murray filled out Walsh's last 46 claims, covering his final 18 months in politics in 2002 and 2003.

Walsh insisted he thought his staffers were completing the claims, and were well aware of how important it was to get them right.

"I sent nothing to Bill Murray to fill out a claim for me," Walsh said. "I sent nothing."

Knickle pressed him on the point, noting that his staffers could not identify their handwriting on any of his last 46 claim forms. Murray's handwriting was on all of them instead.

"Somehow, magically, your claims ended up (being completed)," Knickle said.

Walsh pointed to what he believed were photocopies of his signature on the claim forms, saying Murray must have doctored them.

Knickle again attempted to link the two men.

"So for two years - out of the goodness of his heart - Mr. Murray was filling out your claims for you and giving you the money?" she asked.

"I don't know if he is a psychopath or what he is," Walsh replied. "But he is at the forefront of $3 million missing from the House of Assembly."

The Crown also attacked other key pillars of Walsh's defence.

The former MHA has testified he thought per-diem payments and some mileage claims fell outside his constituency allowance limit.

Walsh blamed House officials for that incorrect impression, and for not pulling the plug when his spending hit the $30,500 ceiling.

"Somewhere along the way the bell was supposed to ring if I hit a number," Walsh testified.

But no bells rang. The claims kept coming, and so did the cheques.

Knickle said Walsh was an experienced businessman and politician, and found it tough to believe that he didn't understand the rules. She called his testimony on per-diems "illogical."

Walsh rebutted that as well.

"Ms. Knickle, I'm not going to argue with you. ... I can only tell you what I believe it was."

The Crown also sought to undermine other explanations for how Walsh did not pick up on any problems in his constituency allowance account.

On Wednesday, Walsh testified "there were a lot of cheques coming over my desk for a lot of things," for various government expenses.

But Walsh's banking records for 2002 and 2003 "don't bear that out," Knickle said.

The prosecutor said every single government expense cheque Walsh received - except for three - were directly related to his constituency allowance.

Walsh is on trial for fraud over $5,000, breach of trust by a public officer and frauds on government.

The charges relate to excess claims totalling $159,316 from his taxpayer-funded constituency allowance between 1998 and 2004.

The former MHA and cabinet minister concluded his testimony Thursday.

The defence's case could wrap up as soon as today.

rantle@thetelegram.com

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