– will turn State witness
One of the 13 employees of the Customs and Trade Administration has opted to utilise the recently enacted Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining and Plea Agreement) Act, turning state witness in exchange for a possible lighter sentencing.
President Bharat Jagdeo announced this during his address at the opening of the 24th annual conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police.
The President was referring to new tough measures adopted by the Guyana government to deal with criminal activities and corruption.
“Thirteen Customs Officers have been charged and one of the offenders…is going to turn state witness. And this is in the public domain; it is not infringing on the court’s jurisdiction,” the President said.
A total of 72 charges were read to 13 former employees from the Guyana Revenue Authority along with two customs brokers when they appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson a week ago. The charges range from conspiracy and forgery, in relation to the Fidelity Investment scam.
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 and Ann Noel along with the two customs brokers Samantha Sam and Rabindra Rajcoomar were not required to plead, since all 72 charges were indictable.
Defence attorney Nigel Hughes said that the case has had “Political over tones” because of the company that is involved.
Hughes further explained that clients have no power and thus they have been sacrificed and the other “fat cats” have escaped from the law.
He said that all the officers who were charged are all junior officers, adding that not a single director has been charged for the scam.
He said that the only terrible thing about this case is that when it reaches the Preliminary Inquiry stage, the matter cannot be reported on. He said, “the public would never know the actual truth and thus his clients are still left with the stain”.
The lawyer also stated that a majority of the clients who are charged are single parents and are now out of jobs, because the stains remain.
The lawyer also commented on the fact that the state picked a Senior Counsel to prosecute the matter.
On April 27 last, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee signed an Order bringing into operation the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining and Plea Agreement) Act 2008, No. 18 of 2008, which took effect on May 2.
Subsequent to signing the said Order, the Police Department and other relevant Agencies and Departments can now take the necessary legal steps to facilitate Plea Bargaining and plea agreement procedures.
The legislation was passed in the National Assembly on October 16, 2008.
President Jagdeo said that sometimes it is wiser to make deals with criminals, horrible as they are “to other people in jail.”
He said that additionally, the government has passed an Interception of Communications Act (wire tapping), a Telecoms Amendment Act and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Bill as well as some other legislation, all in an effort to upgrade anti crime measures.
“These are the things that are necessary, the tools that are necessary for our law enforcement agencies,” the President said.
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