Commissioner of Insurance Maria van Beek narrowly survived a brazen attempt on her life at around 08:15 hrs yesterday, after she was shot by a gunman while driving her car along Lombard Street in Georgetown.
Van Beek, who is also the Judicial Manager for CLICO, was shot in the chest as she drove in heavy traffic during a downpour.
Eyewitnesses said that the gunman struck in the vicinity of Lombard and Leopold Streets, standing in front on van Beek’s car before firing a bullet into her right front window.
An eyewitness told Kaieteur News that the gunman then walked calmly into Leopold Street, where he and an accomplice escaped on a Honda CG motorcycle.
The injured woman managed to drive to Mohamed’s Enterprises on Lombard Street, where she sought assistance from staff who drove her to the Woodlands Hospital in Carmichael Street, where she underwent emergency surgery.
A physician at the hospital said that the bullet missed van Beek’s heart by about five inches, but listed her condition as stable.
From all reports, the gunman and his accomplice made no attempt to relieve van Beek of any of her valuables.
A police statement also indicated that no attempt was made to rob van Beek, and said that patrols were dispatched to the scene after the shooting.
Roadblocks were also laid out and several searches carried out as the police continue their efforts to locate the two suspects.
Van Beek’s car was taken to the Privatisation Unit in Kingston after detectives had checked it for prints and other forensic evidence.
Ameer Mohamed, manager of Mohamed’s Enterprises, told Kaieteur News that he was at his premises when he heard a loud gunshot.
He said that they then heard someone screaming and shortly after a woman, later identified as van Beek, drove up to his store and began screaming for help, repeatedly asking them to call the police. He recalled that she was bleeding profusely from a wound to her upper body.
According to Mohamed, one of his employees recognized the injured woman and instructed her to go into the back seat.
Mohamed said that his security personnel cordoned off the area to protect van Beek. They then contacted the police before one of them took her to the Woodlands Hospital in her car.
“She was bleeding heavily, and we gave her a handkerchief to press to the wound. She was saying she didn’t know who could have done it.”
A Lombard Street resident told Kaieteur News that he was in the vicinity of Leopold Street when he heard a gunshot.
He said that a man, dressed in a cap, sweater and three-quarter trousers, walked ‘calmly’ from Lombard into Leopold Street.
According to the eyewitness, the man, who had one hand concealed under his sweater, was short and of medium build.
Van Beek has been actively involved in matters related to the CLICO financial scandal and her sister, Deon Fries, indicated that she believed the shooting was linked to the contentious issue, but could not understand why her sister, in her role, was a target.
She described the attempt on her sister’s life as “an eye opener for the entire family”, adding that security arrangements will now be put in place to prevent any further attack.
“You live in Guyana, you get up and go to work as normal, you really don’t think that someone is going to come and shoot you,” Fries said.
Fries stressed that although van Beek was integrally involved in the CLICO issue, she was not personally responsible for the debacle that the company finds itself in.
She suggested that the anger stemming from the substantial loss that persons may suffer as result of the state that CLICO finds itself in should be directed to the top brass of the parent company, CL Financial.
“People need to fly to Trinidad…She’s just acting on behalf of the government to try and sort the problem out. She’s not personally responsible for what’s going on.”
A Government statement expressed “greatest concern” at the “dastardly attempt” on van Beek’s life.
“The administration finds it incomprehensible that any sane mind would stoop to such an act that would seem to have an intention of frustrating the work Mrs. van Beek is doing as the Commissioner of Insurance,” the statement said.
“The administration condemns this act in the severest manner possible and wishes Mrs. van Beek a speedy recovery.
“Regarding the work that she is doing as Judicial Manager of CLICO (Guyana), the Government of Guyana continues to stand firmly by its commitment to protect the interest of the policy owners of the company.”
It added that police have commenced investigations into the shooting and Commissioner Henry Greene has indicated that no stone will be left unturned during these investigations.
Also reacting to the attack, a statement from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) said that “whether it was an attempted robbery or for other reasons, the Party unreservedly condemns this criminal act and would urge the Commissioner of Police and the Jagdeo Administration to act with dispatch to ensure that the perpetrator(s) are caught and placed before the courts.”
“The Party has learnt, with some relief, that Ms. van Beek is in a stable condition in a hospital in Georgetown. The PNCR wishes her a speedy and full recovery.”
And the Alliance For Change stated that the party “condemns without reservation this violent attack on an innocent citizen and hopes that the perpetuators are brought to justice.”
Van Beek was appointed Judicial Manager of CLICO (Guyana) on February 25 last and was tasked with assessing the entity’s financial position.
On Tuesday last she presented her report to the High Court, declaring the company insolvent, adding that in a worst-case scenario the company’s liability outweighed its assets by some US$60M.
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