Soon to retire Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Lt. Colonel Sydney James, who served as a pivotal witness in the treason trial of an army Mayor and two others is set to head the Guyana Police Force’s newly established Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
James was sworn in on Friday last and is expected to retire from the military in October.
Recently, he led evidence in the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the death of former politician Walter Rodney.
Two weeks ago, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon announced that Government intends to spend some $63.1M for the establishment of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU). .
Back in July Cabinet had approved the creation and operationalization of the (SOCU) Unit. The Unit is expected to be dedicated to investigating suspected financial transactions suggestive of money laundering and financing of terrorism. The Unit will be under the Commissioner of Police and will have a close relationship to the Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU), said Luncheon at his press conference at Office of the President.
“SOCU’s creation is in response to non parliamentary recommendations from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF),” Luncheon stated.
Lt. Col James, who has had more than 30 years of military experience, is expected to manage the Special Organized Crime Unit, which is being established in keeping with the Caribbean Action Task Force recommendations. The Task Force will deal specifically with the issue of money laundering.
Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud confirmed James’s appointment. The SOCU office will be located in the vicinity of the Central Immigration and Passport Office.
James recently testified at the COI into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney who was killed in a car explosion in 1980. The army officer had testified that various weapons loaned to the defunct Ministry of National Development during the reign of the People’s National Congress-led government were not returned.
This has caused Government officials, specifically Head of State Donald Ramotar, to call on Opposition Leader, Brigadier David Granger, to return the weapons, claiming that they could be used for political gains.
James was also a main witness in the 2010 treason case against Major Bruce Munroe, his wife, Carol-Ann Munroe, and former Army Reserve Officer, Leonard Wharton. James had testified to collecting information from a dishonourably discharged GDF rank Quincy Critchlow, who claimed that the charged persons were conspiring to overthrow the incumbent People’s Progressive Party-government.
In 2012 all charges were dismissed against the Munroes and Wharton for lack of evidence among other things. Major Munroe was later reinstated in the army.
SOCU will work closely with the Finance Intelligence Unit to track possible money laundering activities.
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