Jul 02, 2016 News
More details are emerging in the current investigations involving the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff, who was arrested on Thursday at his office.
Investigators trying to piece together the case have found several hundreds of millions in accounts that were in control of Omar Shariff and a female close to him.
Somehow, over the years, especially between the period 2009 and 2016, more than $10B (US$50M) were deposited in accounts at several city banks held in control of Shariff and the woman, said to be his reputed wife.
The Permanent Secretary and the woman are being investigated for tax evasion and money laundering.
From initial indications, it was an elaborate scheme with accounts scattered at several city banks. There were large deposits with money withdrawn as fast as it was transacted.
Where the money came from in the first place and where the withdrawals went afterwards is what investigators from the State Assets Recovery Unit and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) want to know.
Shariff reportedly claimed that monies were proceeds from the sale of phone cards and other credit to mobile phones but investigators are not buying his story.
There is little evidence that taxes were paid also.
The case is generating raised eyebrows as Shariff as Permanent Secretary, was responsible for the day-to-day running of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Ministry was once known as the Office of the President (OP) and handles billions of dollars annually from several programmes.
Shariff was appointed Permanent Secretary at OP shortly after former President Donald Ramotar was sworn in back in 2011.
The David Granger administration kept him after winning the May 2015 General Elections.
Kaieteur News was told that contrary to initial reports, commercial banks did little in spite of questionable transactions. At least one local bank blocked Shariff last year after he made attempts to deposit several hundred million dollars into accounts, shortly after the May General Elections. The sum amounted to almost half billion dollars.
It was around that time that investigators of both SARU and SOCU got together with officials of Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to start investigating Shariff. They zeroed in on his bank accounts and assets.
They were able to find around $600M in some accounts.
What made the investigators more interested in Shariff was another investigation into disappearance of almost $600M from OP and allegedly paid to the Ministry of Public Service, headed by then Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford. Investigators were unable to find the money.
Shariff, said to be 43, was arrested by SOCU and SARU ranks Thursday at his office at the Ministry of the President. He was later released on $200,000 bail after taking a lawyer, Attorney-at-Law, Sanjeev Datadin.
He has since been sent on his annual leave by the Ministry pending the investigations.
The case of the Permanent Secretary is one of the biggest tackling possible corruption since the new administration took office last year.
Several forensic audits were ordered to be conducted last year into state agencies. Numerous red flags were raised and irregularities found.
A number of the cases are currently being investigated by SOCU, SARU and the police.
In addition to Shariff, officials have disclosed that a number of other persons are being investigated and are expected to be charged soon.
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