The Court of Appeal on Monday overturned the fraud conviction of Deeds Registrar Azeena Baksh. Deliberating on the case were Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud and High Court Judge Franklin Holder. In March 2020, Baksh was found guilty by a Magistrate on a fraud charge over unlawfully paying herself gratuity and a higher salary than what was approved by the Judicial Service Commission.
Particulars of the charge had stated that while being a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) between May 1, 2014, and January 31, 2017, with intent to defraud, she caused or procured valuable securities to the sum of $4,534,480 to be delivered to her bank of Nova Scotia account or to her own use and benefit by falsely pretending she was a contracted employee of the Deeds and Commercial Registry.
Through her Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, Baksh filed an appeal in which she asked that the decision of the magistrate be set aside and/or reverse. Her lawyer, in the appeal, contended that his client was entitled to the payments and that the prosecution failed to prove that she fraudulently represented her entitlement to receive monies. In setting aside Baksh’s conviction and sentence, the Appeal Court, among other things, held that the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the offence.
Despite being convicted, Baksh was not relieved of duties as such a decision can only be taken by the Judicial Service Commission which expired in 2017. Now that her conviction has been set aside, the Board of the Deeds and Commercial Registry will address the issue of her resuming duties.
Staffers at the Deeds Registry had called on the Legal Affairs Ministry to probe complaints of alleged financial improprieties committed by Baksh. These payments started in 2014 and continued up to early 2017. Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has always maintained that the charge against Baksh was politically motivated and instigated by his predecessor, Basil Williams, SC.