After a trial that lasted almost two years, popular Mahaica businessman Harilall Motielall called “Jinga Harry” was jailed for four years by Magistrate Sueanna Lovell at the Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court.
The Magistrate handed down her decision yesterday in Motilall’s absence, after prosecutors, Inspector Hattie Anthony and Corporal Sheril Graham successfully presented their case.
The embattled 56-year-old businessman, who was on $350,000 bail, was not present for the previous four court hearings as his Attorney Kim Kyte-John reported to the court that he was unwell.
Nevertheless, Magistrate Lovell ordered that he must spend the first two years of his four-year sentence in prison while the other two years were suspended. It means that if Motielall commits any offence after serving the mandatory two years, he will be sent back to prison to serve the other two years.
Motielall, who was labeled a major smuggler by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), was charged with Discharging a Loaded Firearm with Intent. He was accused of shooting at GRA officers on the night of July 16, 2014, when they intercepted a convoy of minibuses loaded with illegally imported chicken at Dundee, Mahaicony.
It is alleged that Motielall and others, using an AK-47 and other small arms, opened fire on the Customs Officers, injuring one of them.
At the initial court hearing, Police Prosecutor, Corporal Sheril Graham had objected to bail on the grounds that the offence was very serious in nature. She told the court that the GRA officers who were conducting a surveillance exercise based on intelligence received, had intercepted three minibuses containing 150 boxes of chicken, for which no customs papers could be produced,
The prosecution’s facts are that the officers had taken possession of the keys for the vehicles, and the cell phones of the occupants were seized, when Motielall himself and three accomplices pulled up in a grey Toyota Allion motor car. The men exited and opened fire in the direction of the GRA officials, who were forced to retreat and take cover. This allowed the men who were detained with the smuggled chicken to escape in several waiting motor vehicles.
When the dust settled, the motor vehicle used by the GRA officials to conduct the exercise was badly riddled with bullets.
In the process, one of the GRA officers was wounded in his stomach and had to receive treatment at a city hospital.
Also, during the 10-minute barrage, a resident of the area, Yogeshwar Singh was grazed by a bullet as he peered through his window to see what was taking place.
Motielall was subsequently arrested and was positively identified by the GRA officials.
His Attorney in her plea for him to be put on bail pending the outcome of his trial, had argued that Motielall was not charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
In fact, she had noted that except for spent shells recovered at the scene of the shootout and the statement from witnesses, the police did not find any weapons that were allegedly used.
She had assured the court that her client is not a flight risk and he would return to court to stand trial.
Magistrate Lovell accepted the bail plea, but had ordered that Motielall surrender his passport to the authorities.
In handing down her long-awaited decision yesterday, Magistrate Lovell stated that the case was a clear one, based on the fact that Motielall was positively identified by the GRA officials who were involved in the incident.
His Attorney had pleaded for the entire sentence to be suspended and that he pay compensation to the injured GRA officials. However Magistrate Lovell did not find favour with that request, agreeing with the prosecution that the offence for which Motielall was charged was very serious in nature.
The Magistrate also noted that Motielall was not even licenced to carry a firearm.
It is not yet known if the sentence will be appealed, but according to a senior police official, checks will be made to locate Motielall so that “He can be taken to the place that he was sent to.”
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