May 20, 2017 News
By Brushell Blackman
Yesterday, six former board members of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) were slapped with fraud related charges and placed on $500,000 bail each for failing to make a proper entry into a register of a company with the intent to defraud $362M, from the entity’s Republic Bank account.
The prosecution case which was presented by Special Prosecutor, Michael Somersall, before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan is that between 2012 to 2015 the six officials committed the acts knowing that it was contrary to the entity’s standard operating procedures. They were not required to plead to the indictable offence.
They were also ordered to lodge their passports with the police and report to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) every Monday at 9:00 hours. The matter will be heard again on June 23.
The six officials hauled before the court are former General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) Jagnarine Singh; former Deputy General of GRDB and People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Member Madanlall Ramraj; General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) and PPP/C Member of Parliament, Dharamkumar Seeraj; former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and PPP/C Member of Parliament, Nigel Dharamlall; former General Manager of the Guyana Oil Company Badrie Persaud and the Deputy Permanent Secretary Finance Ministry of Agriculture, Prema Roopnarine.
The prosecution is alleging that between January 1 and December 31, 2012 the six officials, with intent to defraud, omitted or concurred to be omitted $77.3M from the general ledger of the GRDB’s Republic Bank account.
Similarly, between January 1 and December 31 of years 2013, 2014 and 2015 with intent to defraud the entity, they omitted or concurred to be omitted from the said Republic Bank account, $9.7M, $130M and $145M for the three respective years.
The prosecution was unable to move forward with its case yesterday due to ‘voluminous’ statements that have to be photocopied and filed.
Prosecutor Somersall asked that bail be set a substantial amount due to the severity of the allegations.
Appearing for Seeraj, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall in his submission for bail said that the 50-year-old father of two is a well known public figure and a member of the National Assembly, therefore he posed no flight risks.
Nandlall also pointed out that his client has cooperated fully with SOCU. In addition, Seeraj and the other five officials have already paid a $100,000 station bail when the charges were first laid on Thursday.
The former AG questioned why only six persons from the 15-member board were charged and said he will explain at a later date why this is so.
It was the view of Nandlall that the charges are selective and vindictive and that the six officials should be released on their own recognizance. The former Legal Affairs Minister also questioned the need for the weekly reporting at SOCU, a move he likened to a ‘throw back’ to school days.
After listening to the submissions Chief Magistrate McLennan imposed the bail and set out the conditions of the bail.
The six officials, who stood in the prisoners dock throughout the one hour court session, were then escorted down the stairs to the prisoners’ lockup and were placed with the other detainees in a cell to await the posting of their bails. The woman remained outside.
The PPP/C, in a statement, yesterday, said, Guyanese are witnessing the depths to which the Coalition government has sunk in continuing with its political victimization. The PPP condemned the move by SOCU to arrest and charge another two of its Members of Parliament and four other Guyanese citizens.
The statement further stated that the two PPP/C Parliamentarians and four others, who are perceived to be supporters of the PPP, were charged by SOCU last Thursday and arraigned in court yesterday.
However, SOCU itself had admitted that its investigations are incomplete and, as such, was unable to provide statements to the court. If its investigations are incomplete, on what basis were the six persons charged?
GRDB is the authority charged with overseeing the rice industry throughout the country. Upon entering Government in May 2015, the David Granger-led administration immediately ordered a number of forensic audits to determine the health of the state agencies.
With regards to the GRDB report, it was noted that over a three to four-year period, more than US$500M from the PetroCaribe proceeds (Venezuela rice-for-oil deal) would have passed through the accounts of the entity.
Among some of the “anomalies” found were loans without proper paperwork or promissory notes.
There were other instances of persons in the agency using GRDB’s money to trade in foreign currency.
The losses for the Government would have been significant, especially if the money was traded for less than it should have been.
The Auditor General and the forensic audit reports have all pointed to severe deficiencies in the manner the monies of the state have been handled by the entities.
Prema Roopnarine and Badrie Persaud were represented by Attorney-at-Law Sase Gunraj; Dharamlall and Singh were represented by Glen Hanoman while Ramraj was represented by former Minister of Education Priya Manickchand.
Pic saved in Saturday as Roopnarine; Persaud; Dharamlall; Singh; Ramraj and Seeraj
Caption: Charged: Former General Manager of GRDB, Jagnarine Singh
Caption: Charged: Permanent Secretary, Finance Ministry, of Agriculture Prema Roopnarine
Caption: Charged: Former Deputy General Manager GRDB, Madanlall Ramraj
Caption: Charged: General Secretary of the RPA, Dahramkumar Seeraj
Caption: Charged: Former General Manager of the Guyana Oil Company Badrie Persaud
Caption: Charged: Former Permanent Secretary Ministry of Amerindian Affairs Nigel Dharamlall
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