– Attorney cites executive abuse
Senior Counsel, Neil Boston, has maintained that the institution of criminal charges against Former Minister of Public Service, Dr Jennifer Westford, and her Personal Assistant, Margaret Cummings, breaches an amnesty promise made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, during a press conference earlier this year.
Boston made this claim yesterday, when he addressed the court on why court proceedings against the former Minister and her Personal Assistant, should not go forward. Boston contended that there is evidence for the Magistrate to “stay indefinitely these proceeding”.
The Attorney made an hour-long submission before City Magistrate Fabayo Azore in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
In his opening remarks, Boston assured the court that his application has nothing to do with prejudice or fairness. He affirmed that it has to do with “executive abuse”. The lawyer recalled that over the years, the court has frowned over the attempt by any executive to wrongfully misuse the process of the court.
Police Prosecutor, Bharrat Mangru was given until November 30, to reply to the Attorney’s submission. Sixteen witnesses are slated to testify on behalf of the prosecution if the matter goes to trial.
The former minister was placed on a total of $800,000 bail after she pleaded not guilty to eight charges. The charges alleged that between July 17, 2014 and June 23, 2015, she attempted to transfer eight state vehicles to four persons, including her husband, Gary Beaton, Osbert McPherson, Wayne Walker and Delroy Lewis.
Westford’s former Chief Personnel Officer, Margaret Cummings, was also slapped with four counts of forgery.
Cummings also pleaded not guilty to four charges which alleged that she forged documents for the purchase of the eight motor vehicles. She has been released on a total of $1.2M bail.
During his submission, Boston informed the court that the Minister of State had announced an amnesty for persons in possession of state assets. He revealed that the amnesty was brought to light during a June 19, press conference, which he said was aired on HPGTV.
Boston stated that Harmon had promised that once the vehicles were returned-no prosecution will take place. He added that during the press conference, Harmon said, “They can quietly bring them (vehicles) back to the Ministry, in which they came from or to the Office of the President (OP). They can park them outside the gate…”
However, Boston said that all the vehicles were returned to the OP and in spite of the official pardon, his clients were charged.
The lawyer argued, “The institution of the charges breached the promise (Harmon made). And the court proceeding against Westford and Cummings should be stayed indefinitely.”
He noted that the court process is wrongfully being misused by the filing of the charges. As such, the attorney stated, “It offends this court’s sense of justice and priority to be asked to try the two defendants in the circumstances…”
Before criminal charges
The lawyer told the court that his clients were employed in the Public Sector before May 11. He said that Westford was Minster of Public Service and Cummings was acting Permanent Secretary.
Boston explained that subsequent to May 11, there were allegations to the effect that attempts were made to transfer Government vehicles from the Ministry of Public Service, which was over sighted by OP.
He stated that the vehicles were purportedly transferred to several persons, inclusive of Westford.
According to the lawyer, it was a matter of several breaking stories in the media. Boston exclaimed, “Harmon joined the breaking news train. He had to get in his punches.”
In early June, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, had told the media that it was brought to his attention that some documents were sent to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), purportedly signed by Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry, Hydar Ally.
This was done under Ally’s letterhead, but signed by someone else. “He had no knowledge of this transaction,” Minister Harmon had stressed.
It was Ally, who directed Harmon to the discrepancy in the paperwork forwarded to GRA for the transfer of eight vehicles.
In light of the overwhelming evidence, the vehicles were returned to the government. The police were called in to investigate and Westford was charged while Cummings was sent on leave.
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