Jul 02, 2016 News
Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, insists that the recent arrest of a Permanent Secretary (PS) allegedly found with billions of dollars in different bank accounts must represent the beginning of Government’s corruption clean-up campaign.
It was on Thursday that Omar Shariff, the PS in the Ministry of the Presidency, was taken in for questioning by officials from the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU). Investigations by the officials revealed that Shariff allegedly had over $10B in several bank accounts. It is believed that the money was deposited over a five-year period.
Dr. Hinds said that news that Shariff is being probed by SOCU and has therefore been relieved of his post in the Ministry, must be welcomed by those who have been concerned about the sloth of the government in moving against those who have been fingered in improprieties during the last administration.
“Many have been wondering whether the government had changed its mind. The decision to retain Mr. Shariff as PS at the Ministry was puzzling to many observers, and most of the staff at the Office of the Presidency who were aware of the allegations against him. I welcome this development and hope that it is not an isolated move,” Dr. Hinds expressed.
He added, “I am convinced that official corruption has developed a life of its own and has corrupted a large slice of the citizenry of Guyana. For me, this is not about moving against individuals or political persons. It is about correcting a national injustice and sending a signal to the society at large that official corruption would not be tolerated.”
The WPA Executive Member said that when individuals who are charged with managing national affairs utilize common resources for personal enrichment, they are robbing children of a proper education and the elderly and the poor of better health care. The politician also opined that there is a linkage between corruption and underdevelopment here.
Dr. Hinds said, “I hope this is the beginning of a larger process of cleaning up this national mess. There will be the continued charges of witch-hunting and racism from elements associated with the previous government, but this administration must demonstrate strength and adherence to principle in the face of these charges.”
“More members of the Indian Guyanese elite must now lend their voices to this anti-corruption crusade; they must not allow narrow sentiments to influence their attitude to this national disgrace. In the end, official corruption benefits no group and taints all groups.”
The WPA Executive Member said that those ordinary citizens who may have wittingly and unwittingly benefited from corruption must look beyond short term gain and instead think about the future of the country.
How Shariff ended up with that amount in the accounts is what investigators want to know. From indications, they are not buying a story that Shariff owned a business that raked in almost $100M annually for the last seven years. There seemed to be little evidence that taxes were paid.
A statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said that Shariff was sent on his annual leave effective July 1, by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, to facilitate a major probe into what might turn out to be a money laundering case.
Officials said that investigators met Shariff at his office at the Ministry of the Presidency on Thursday morning where searches were carried out. In its statement, the Ministry said that Minister Harmon in a letter to the Permanent Secretary reminded him that he is now the subject of an investigation by SOCU of the Guyana Police Force. The Minister informed Shariff that he should proceed on his annual leave from July 1, 2016, to enable him to fully cooperate with the investigation.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communities, Abena Moore, will take up the role of Permanent Secretary (Ag) at the Ministry of the Presidency. Shariff reportedly retained Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin as his legal counsel and was placed on $200,000 bail.
Shariff was a former Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Progressive Youth Organization (PYO), an arm of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the current Opposition, and was a candidate for that party in last year’s General Elections.
He was appointed as Permanent Secretary during the last administration shortly after former President Donald Ramotar was sworn in late 2011.
The David Granger-led administration retained him after taking office in May last year.
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