Solicitor had 'no idea' about Reid bribe
Solicitor Geoffrey Booth had 'no idea' a $5 million bribe was to be paid to corrupt ex-prosecutor Warwick Reid in return for providing a statement which could help his client, a jury was told yesterday.
Booth, 45, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law and procedure committee, said he had tried to dissuade Reid from seeking a financial reward.
'I told him we could not recommend any sort of arrangement of a financial nature at all,' the lawyer said.
'I told him my first duty was to the court and if I suspected there was any sort of arrangement behind my back or anything of that nature I would not accept it.
'My position as an officer of the court was paramount and I would not be involved in any deception of the court,' Booth said.
Asked if he had known that Reid was to be paid $5 million, the lawyer said: 'I had no idea at all until I was told by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.' Booth pleads not guilty to acting in a way which was intended to pervert the course of justice.
It is alleged that he knew Reid had been paid to provide a statement for use in the appeal of a convicted fraudster and concealed this from the court.
Booth said he became involved in the case after receiving a telephone call from tycoon David Tang who asked if he could provide legal help for the wife of Ch'ng Poh, the businessman who had been jailed for a $127 million fraud plot.
The solicitor began work on a possible appeal and said it was Ch'ng's idea to contact Reid to see if he could provide any useful information. Booth said Reid, who was serving a prison sentence for corruption at the time, told him Ch'ng had been framed and was prepared to make a statement to help him.
'Warwick Reid is a very intelligent man and he was very, very credible. He looked as though he was telling the truth. What he said made sense. I believed him,' the solicitor said.
The court has heard that the statement was a fabrication and it was rejected when used in Ch'ng's appeal.
Booth told the court Reid asked for a financial reward in return for the statement during a week in November 1994.
At that time the disgraced prosecutor was negotiating with the Government over the seizure of his assets and wanted financial help.
The solicitor discussed it with barristers in the case and it was decided not to even tell the client, Ch'ng, about the request.
Asked if he had intended to pervert the course of justice, Booth said: 'No, never. In fact I intended to correct a perversion of the course of justice. I thought Ch'ng Poh had been wrongly convicted and wanted to correct this.' The Court of First Instance trial, before Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, will continue on Tuesday.