Computer equipment seized by police investigating the Douglas East by-election proxy vote fraud are to be returned – after the court ruled developer Dandara was the rightful owner.
Charles Buster Lewin, who was sentenced to three and a half years in jail after admitting conspiring dishonestly to secure proxy votes, claimed the Acer laptop and Compaq tower units had been given to him by his employer Dandara for use in the election campaign.
Dandara contacted police last year seeking return of the property seized in the criminal investigation.
By-election candidate Kevin Woodford, on whose behalf the campaign was run, confirmed through his advocate that the equipment was not his.
But Mr Lewin claimed the Acer laptop was given to him personally by his employer to replace his own faulty laptop previously used in the by-election campaign while the tower units were given to him as a gift.
The Deputy High Bailiff’s court heard he had been employed by Dandara as an office administrator in April 2007 and in 2010 part of his role included assisting in Mr Woodford’s election campaign.
He claimed he had been using his own personal Sony laptop for election campaign business as Dandara had indicated to him when he was interviewed for the post of office administrator in 2007 that they did not want their own IT equipment to be used for the election campaign.
Mr Lewin claimed he was told by a representative of his employer that he could have the Compaq tower units free of charge.
But Dandara submitted that no agreement took place in respect of either the Acer laptop or the Compaq tower units, and nor was there any discussion in 2007 about an election which was due to take place in 2010.
The company said Mr Lewin was employed to carry out various duties including identifying potential sites and pockets of land for development and that the property was provided to him in his capacity as an employee, for his use during the election campaign and not as a gift to him personally.
Mr Lewin continued to use the property until it was seized by the police on May 26, 2010 during the course of a criminal investigation into allegations of fraudulent proxy voting and forgery.
In a statement made to the police on that day – before he was aware there was any dispute as to the ownership of the property – Dandara director Seamus Nugent insisted: ‘The only way in which the Dandara group has assisted the Kevin Woodford election campaign is to supply it with an office at 1 Derby Square. We may have also lent some IT resource in that office.’
And in a written submission to the court, Mr Nugent said: ‘At no time did I agree to gift any of the computer equipment, including the laptop that was purchased by Dandara Group, to Buster Lewin.
‘Furthermore, I am not aware of any instances in which the Dandara Group have gifted computer equipment to current or ex-employees of the Dandara Group.’
In her judgment, Deputy High Bailiff Jayne Hughes said she was satisfied that it was never the intention of Dandara that ownership of the Compaq tower units should pass to Mr Lewin and that they were provided to him solely for his use in the course of his employment.
She said ownership of the Acer laptop was less certain. But she agreed that Mr Lewin’s account was ‘implausible’.
The Deputy High Bailiff found that property is, and always has been, owned by Dandara ordered that police return it to that owner.