LOS ANGELES (CN) - In the ownership trial on the world's largest emerald, the 840-pound Bahai emerald, the former transaction coordinator for one of the settled parties testified that she "unwittingly" participated in a fraud.
Joy MacKell, who worked as the transaction coordinator for Digital Reflections, said she thought the Bahia emerald was going to be used as collateral for her former employer.
Settled party and gem dealer Wayne Catlett owned Digital Reflections, which was where MacKell met Anthony "Tony" Thomas, who claims that he is the gem's original and sole owner.
The second intervenor in the matter, Mark Downie, claims that he acquired ownership of the emerald when Catlett defaulted on an $81,000 loan. Downie has not appeared in court so far, and his trial date in the case is yet to be determined.
As the transaction coordinator, MacKell's job was to find assets worth $100 million for the high-yield investment program in which Catlett wanted to enroll.
MacKell claimed that Catlett micromanaged her role and did not allow her to do much, leaving her in the dark as to what he was planning to do with the emerald.
Steven Haney with Haney, Buchanan & Patterson, who represents Downie, asked MacKell how many times she went to Sao Paulo and why.
MacKell testified that she took two trips to Brazil, twice in October 2001, with Catlett to obtain a $25 million emerald collateral for the high-yield investment program Catlett wanted to enter.
To enter this investment program, however, Catlett needed $100 million. MacKell also said that she did not know about the Bahia emerald during her first trip to Sao Paulo.
MacKell testified that when she arrived with Catlett in Brazil and saw cut and polished emeralds presented by Brazilian miners Ruy Saraiva and Elson Ribiero, "I deemed that the cut and polished emeralds were not acceptable for the program even if they were worth $100 million or more."
When Haney asked her why the cut and polished emeralds were not acceptable, she answered that it was because those emeralds were not the right type of emeralds to constitute collateral for the high-yield investment program. She added that she did not know why since she is not a gemologist.
Haney pointed out that MacKell had contradicted herself since she had previously testified that she learned cut and polished emeralds were unacceptable for the investment program during her first trip to Brazil, not the second.
MacKell replied that she was forced to recall 10-year-old events and details, and that she was able to be more accurate after having after looked through several documents.
But MacKell's order of events still do not add up, the parties say.
MacKell said that she and Catlett returned to Brazil after Saraiva called them back about a substantial finding he wanted to show to both of them, yet she also testified that she returned with Catlett to Sao Paulo in late October 2001 to see the Saraiva's substantial finding, which turned out to be the Bahia emerald.
Haney reminded MacKell that Thomas testified he bought the world's largest emerald on October 17, 2001, for a mere $60,000 from Saraiva and Ribiero.
"Do you have any explanation for why Ruy [Saraiva] would sell an emerald already bought by somebody else?" Haney asked.
MacKell answered, fittingly, "It's a mystery, sir."
Asked whether she was part of the fraud, MacKell said, "Yes, unwittingly."
She also added that the Brazilians did not tell her that they already sold the emerald to Thomas, and she did not object to the bill of sale to prove that Thomas submitted to prove his ownership.
"The reason is because my understanding was that Tony was in the program with us," MacKell said.
In an interview after stepping down from the witness stand, MacKell expressed her regret for what she has done.
"I realized that I wasn't the only one getting screwed," MacKell said.
When asked why she decided to testify as a witness, she answered: "I guess in a way I saw an opportunity to make a right out of something wrong. I saw this as my opportunity to clean up my own act and to make the rest of this right."
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