Customs officers reappear in court
Ann Noel, the final Customs officer to be charged in the Fidelity Investment Scandal, appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson, at the Georgetown Magistrates Court, yesterday.
Michelle Matthias, Simone Herod, Roopnarine Ramkishun, Karen Bobb-Semple, Ausya Greenidge, Vickie Sooknanan, Rhonda Gladd, Sadesh Pitamber, Jasoda Mohamed, Anthony Girdhari, Satish Basdeo, Rabindra Ramsarran along with the two Customs brokers Samantha Sam and Rabindra Rajcoomar, were all charged last April.
Noel was slapped with a single count of conspiracy to commit a felony.
It was alleged that the accused, on November 26, 2007 at Georgetown conspired with person or persons knowingly concerned with the fraudulent evasion of the importation of Polar Beer.
She was not required to plead since the charge was indictable. Noel was represented by attorney at law Nigel Hughes.
Hughes made a bail application and Noel was subsequently granted $95,000 bail.
There was no objection to bail by the prosecution which was headed by Senior Counsel Bernard De Santos in association with Pamela De Santos.
Senior Counsel De Santos made an application for the matter to be adjourned for the next three weeks, so that he could arrange his files.
He further told the court that another issue facing the prosecution is that the Director of Public Prosecution is on leave, so they cannot get advice on whether the matters are to be dealt with indictably.
Attorney at law Nigel Hughes who is representing Noel, Michelle Matthias, Roopnarine Ramkishun, , Karen Bobb-Semple, Vickie Sooknanan, Simeon Herod, Ausya Greenidge and Jasoda Mohamed, told the court that all his clients along with the other defendants have all being “blacklisted”.
The lawyer said that “it’s against their constitutional rights and furthermore, with the prosecution wanting a delay, pushes them at another lost”. Hughes also requested that the prosecution disclosed who the state witness is. The lawyer further stated that with the prosecution wanting an adjournment, the recommencing date must be set for something more definitive.
Senior Counsel De Santos interjected and stated that anyone who is on bail is subjected to the court, further noting that person could only leave the jurisdiction if the court grants them that application.
The lawyer stated that in relation to the disclosure of the state witness it would come in due time.
De Santos said that he must address the issue of the defendants who has been interfering with the prosecution and that has been taken into note.
Attorney at law Vic Puran at this point interjected and requested that the matter be tried by a jury.
The matter was later adjourned for July 28 for report.
A total of 72 charges were read to the customs officers along with two customs brokers when they appeared on the first occasion.
The charges range from conspiracy and forgery, in relation to the Fidelity investment scam.
The lawyers had told the court that all the charges against the defendants were bad in law.
Attorney at law Nigel Hughes had claimed that the case has had “political overtones” because of the company which is involved.
Hughes had explained that the defendants have no power and thus they have been sacrificed and the other “fat cats” have escaped from the law.
Following the discovery of the imbroglio where it was alleged that the company paid duties on soft drinks when in fact it was beer in the container, President Bharrat Jagdeo ordered a task force that included the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, to investigate alleged improprieties between the GRA officers, a broker and Fidelity Investment/Kong Inc
A report on the investigation was completed and when it was laid in the National Assembly earlier this year it was found that there was a recommendation that GRA take the necessary disciplinary action against 15 of its senior staffers, who were all found to have been complicit in the Fidelity scam.