Dec 10, 2015 News
as Guyana’s resources were leaving left, right and centre under PPP – SARU Head, Clive Thomas
Investigations which are currently being carried about by the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) show that various forms of corruption were spiraling out of control under the previous regime. But with the assistance being rendered by the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK), SARU’s head, Dr. Clive Thomas, insists that justice will be served.
He said that he is also appalled at, “How deep money laundering connections ran under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).”
Dr. Thomas said that the UK and the USA have pledged their support to ensure that the fight against corruption under the Granger led-administration goes beyond mere talk.
Thomas noted that both the US and the UK have told him on various occasions that they are indeed concerned about the level of corruption in Guyana hence “Their readiness to assist wherever and whenever they can.”
Dr. Thomas said, “There are intense investigations going on right now and believe me, we here at SARU intend to see that justice is served. I wish to repeat President David Granger’s statement that those who did the crime will definitely do the time. We are building some irrefutable cases.
“We have some evidence on certain officials within the PPP who have been involved in serious money laundering activities and these will be revealed in due time. We are receiving the help of the USA and the UK on these matters and their support to us has been tremendously helpful.”
“They see the importance of Guyana having an anti-corruption unit and they are also working along with us to provide legal support as well. They are worried about the level of corruption that has occurred over the years.
Both countries have presented us with damning evidence that showed that the resources of this country were leaving left, right and centre under the PPP. They couldn’t care less because they were simply drunk, drunk with greed.”
“When I look at some of these documents it is astonishing. I just can’t understand how people who call themselves leaders could act so callously. It’s inhumane what they did. We were being ruled by a set of people who had no conscience.”
The economist added, “But while the USA and the UK are readily assisting us, they have also insisted on the importance of getting our legislation in order. We are hoping for this to be done by year end.”
While these moves are being made, Government must also place emphasis on modernizing Guyana’s anti-corruption laws and seeking to expeditiously, prosecute various cases.
“The issue of corruption and how devastating it can be to the economy cannot be underestimated. It’s an epidemic in Guyana and the task is now up to the new government to rectify this. But stopping corruption won’t be easy. It requires modernizing our legislation, because what corruption has now evolved to today is not covered in some of our laws.”
The economist said that for the time being, the law provides for criminal penalties for official corruption. Several laws cover various aspects of corruption, including the Integrity Commission Act, the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, the Audit Act and the Criminal Law Enforcement Act.
He said that for too long, “Many engaged in corrupt activities and are yet to do the time. That should not be. We need to get serious. We need to be resolute and practical about our approach to the matter.”
He said, too, that SARU will place special attention on two other areas of significant illegality and corruption in Guyana, which generate massive economic haemorrhaging; illicit capital flight and the criminal underground economy.
Dr. Thomas explained that in Guyana, illicit capital flight refers to assets whether legally obtained or otherwise, that are intentionally transferred, smuggled, or sent abroad, without the knowledge of the Guyana Revenue Authority and other oversight authorities.
These, he said, are not generally intended to yield proceeds that will be returned to the country. Because these transactions are illegal, they are kept secret.
“Therefore, when capital flight occurs, the capital disappears from Guyana’s financial/asset records, even though it might turn up in records elsewhere.”
Dr. Thomas said that he now has evidence to prove that this occurred “by the billions of dollars” under the PPP/C.
“During the 1980s and 1990s, capital flight was widely acknowledged as a major problem confronting Guyana. During the 2000s, however, it has been barely referenced by the authorities. During that time, capital flight resumed with a vengeance.
“This took place because the previous ruling political elites promoted collusion, through mutually-supporting networks, with criminal endeavours seeking to evade the regulatory and oversight functions of the state,” Dr. Thomas related.
He added, “As I have argued elsewhere, this constitutes the starkest reminder of the ongoing criminalization of the state…”
He then referred to data accumulated from two international sources responsible for annual tracking and reporting on aspects of global capital flight, including Guyana. One is the United Nations and the other is the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) founded in 2006.
Dr. Thomas noted that for the years, 2010-2012, Guyana’s illicit financial flows had averaged US$443million or approximately $90billion in local currency. Although these flows do not fully account for total capital flight, he said that they provide an order of magnitude for that sum.
He had said that by any standard, this is a huge amount and that it has risen rapidly during the 2000s.
“Retrospectively, the 2010-2012 average compares to US$83 million back in 2003.This had doubled to US$173 million by 2006, and more than doubled yet again by 2010 to US$575million. The recorded growth in capital flight therefore, has been explosive during the 2000s,” he said.
A UK expert on Asset Recovery is in the process of gathering information on Guyana’s systems for thwarting corruption as well as examining how much use law enforcement agencies have made of its legislation in this regard.
Mr. Brian Horne is appalled at his findings with regard to money laundering. He said, “I don’t think at the moment there have been any prosecutions or use of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Legislation (AML/CFT). My understanding is that there hasn’t been a case using those provisions which are in place.”
“Now I would ask myself in this regard why not? The legislation has been in place since 2009 and there hasn’t been any prosecution. Why? It might be a rhetorical question but it is still curious to know that you have the legislation but have not used it.”
Mr. Horne, who is a Guyanese by birth, and has worked in more than 22 countries in the field of State Assets Recovery, and the successful prosecution of the defaulters said, that he found such a situation to be “alarming.”
“The reason for passing legislation is because you think there are matters you need to tend to, and you need the legislation in order to deal with the issues as you saw it. But if you have the legislation and you don’t utilize it, it makes people think why not?”
“With my background in the UK, if a piece of legislation is implemented, it is because it is relevant to something that needs to be dealt with and it needs to be used. Perhaps one of the reasons it wasn’t used, was the lack of skills and technical staff to implement the work the legislation was intended to do, but that is just speculation on my part.”
The UK asset recovery advisor said that his role is really going to be using that piece of AML legislation to inform any subsequent legislation that he may recommend to strengthen Guyana’s State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU).
The UK expert emphasized that an anticorruption body is a “positive move” as it will not only thwart corruption, but also “strip illegal assets from those who are involved in it.”
He noted however that it will take time, “so the people must have patience and not expect results tomorrow.”
Horne explained that he will be focused on examining Guyana’s systems in place for fighting corruption and gathering other information. At the end of this exercise, he will make recommendation for Guyana’s State Asset Recovery Unit’s (SARU) transition to being the country’s formal anticorruption body.
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