– “Let Nandlall be patient. He will find out when the Bill is passed if SARA can go after past officials”
By Kiana Wilburg
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall is of the firm opinion that when the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill becomes law, it would be useless in the pursuit of past wrongdoers.
According to Nandlall’s understanding, only those individuals who stole assets after the Bill is passed would be held liable.
The former Minister of Legal Affairs had said that it is not possible for past defaulters to be brought before the courts, because Guyana’s constitution does not allow the law to be retroactive.
But after noting these comments, the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU) which will soon become SARA, concluded that Nandlall is nothing but “professional at misleading the nation.”
SARU officials who spoke with Kaieteur News yesterday made it clear that in the case of the SARA Bill, there are no new offences being created which would prohibit the body from going after those wrongdoers of the past.
They stressed that a quick look at the offences as listed in the SARU Draft Legislation would prove this.
According to the Bill, “if a person knows or suspects that an authorized officer is acting or proposing to act in connection with a civil recovery investigation which is being or is about to be conducted, the person commits an offence, if – (a) the person makes a disclosure which is likely to prejudice the investigation; or (b) the person falsifies, conceals, destroys or otherwise disposes of, or causes or permits the falsification, concealment, destruction or disposal of, documents which are relevant to the investigation.”
The Bill also states that a financial institution commits a summary offence if without reasonable excuse; it fails to comply with a requirement imposed on it under a customer information order.
It says too that, a financial institution commits a summary offence if, in purported compliance with a customer information order, it – (a) makes a statement which it knows to be false or misleading in a material particular, or (b) recklessly makes a statement which is false or misleading in a material particular.
Additionally, the Bill says, “A person who makes or sends a threat to or, in any way intimidates or menaces, or assaults or attempts to assault a member of staff of SARA, or any member of the family of a member of staff of SARA commits an offence.”
Another aspect of the Bill which deals with offences says, “A person commits an offence if without reasonable excuse, he fails to comply with a requirement imposed on him under a disclosure order.”
The SARU officials made it clear that these offences do not in any way inhibit the body’s powers when it becomes an agency to go after officials who stole assets from the state.”
One official said, “Had there been no provision in Guyana’s laws which state that it is an offence to steal, and SARA’s Bill was now seeking to do so, then Mr. Nandlall’s claim would have been in order. We would not have been able to take action against those who stole prior to the Bill coming to life.”
The SARU officer added, “However, what the learned former Attorney General must understand is the fact that stealing state assets or fraudulently converting it for one’s own gains is captured in different ways in many other aspects of our financial laws. Therefore, this Bill when it becomes law will empower SARA to act and enforce those aspects of the law which already speak to stolen state assets and can be recovered via the courts.”
Major (Rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer, who is also part of the SARU team, expressed similar sentiments.
He stressed that Nandlall’s comments are misleading to say the least.
The official said, “If you steal the Government’s property, what law in this country allows you to keep it? There is none. No law allows any official in the past to steal state’s assets and get away with it. So I don’t care how Nandlall wants to turn it and twist it. This Bill is going after property which belongs to the state and that is not some new offence.”
The SARU officer said that the former Attorney General must desist from fooling himself and fooling the nation that those who stole from the state will get away with it.
Heath-Retemyer said that the SARA Bill will allow the entity to deal with stolen assets cases which occurred in the past and “it will allow us to do so effectively.”
He said, “Let Nandlall be patient. He will find out when the Bill is passed if it can go after past officials who stole assets from the state. Nothing Nandlall says will change the fact that stolen state assets will be recovered.”
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