Jul 19, 2016 News
Approaches have been made to the High Court for the Special Organised Crime Unit to access to the bank accounts of many people as part of a money laundering investigation.
Head of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) Lt. Colonel Sydney James’ comments came in the wake of the PPP weekly press conference.
PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee had told reporters at the press conference that the coalition government had approached the Courts for warrants to not only probe ex- Ministers’ bank accounts, but also to conduct searches at their respective residences.
When asked to reveal who were the PPP members that were involved, Rohee demurred, claiming that he did not know the names. Nor could he confirm if the warrants were issued. He reiterated, however, that the courts were approached for warrants.
Col James, however, clarified what investigators actually did. He stated that the courts were approached for orders that would allow SOCU to access the bank accounts of a number of people. He emphasised that it was not aimed at former PPP Ministers, but at people who are being probed for money laundering related offences.
Col James also debunked Rohee’s claims that search warrants were sought. According to the Lt. Colonel, the unit had no need for search warrants at this time.
These revelations come at a time when a series of damning forensic audits, which were conducted into state entities and covered the time the PPP was in office, have been released.
They also come in the wake of revelations that Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff, had billions of dollars in a number of accounts at local banks. It is believed that the monies were deposited over a five-year period.
Shariff was sent off on leave earlier in July, by Minister of State Joseph Harmon in order to facilitate a probe by both SOCU and the State Assets Recovery Unit. In addition to being questioned, Shariff also had his home searched by Law Enforcement officers.
Investigators are probing how Shariff, a former candidate of the PPP, ended up with that amount of money in the accounts. 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.
In addition, there were questions about his role after a major investigation revealed that the Office of the President, under Shariff’s watch, transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ministry of Public Service, headed by then Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford.
Westford, a sitting PPP Member of Parliament and her assistant Margaret Cummings, are currently before the courts facing 24 simple larceny charges. The charges allege that between August 2011 and April 2015, while being employed in the Public Service of the Government of Guyana, they stole the sum of $639.4M belonging to the state.
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