Phone scam trial begins
Lines crossed in muddled start

by Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 24/98) - A trial of one of the suspects in the NWT's biggest telephone scams is off to a rocky start.

Abdikarim Abdulle Yalahow is in Yellowknife territorial court facing charges of theft of telecommunications service and failing to comply with an undertaking.

Judge Michel Bourassa was disqualified Thursday from hearing the case thanks to an application filed by defence lawyer Sid Tarrabain, who argued there was a "reasonable apprehension of bias," since Bourassa endorsed the police search warrants and video surveillance. A new trial date has yet to be scheduled.

The proceedings were to begin Wednesday, but a Somali interpreter needed to help Yalahow follow the proceedings, wasn't requested beforehand by Tarrabain.

Bourassa, pointing out that witnesses had been subpeoned from across the country and were waiting outside the courtroom, but he was forced to delay the trial for a day while a translator was flown in from Edmonton. No one in Yellowknife would offer their services.

Tarrabain had made a pair of applications at the outset of the trial. First, he asked that the charges be stayed because the Crown didn't inform him of the use of a handwriting expert until only weeks before the trial. He also wanted the handwriting expert excluded from the trial.

Bourassa denied both applications, ruling that the prosecution is not required to inform defence counsel whether an investigation into the matter is ongoing. It was after these rulings that Tarrabain insisted Bourassa be disqualified from presiding over the trial.

The case stems from a investigation into phone fraud in January 1997. More than 50 RCMP members from Yellowknife and Edmonton made 12 arrests, nine of them in Inuvik, for a long-distance scam that ran up between $10 million and $11 million worth of calls.

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