Nov 16, 2017 News
The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the police is continuing to battle the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry in court over documents requested for a major investigation.
Yesterday, lawyers for both parties ended up once again before Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire in a closely-watched case.
One of the bank’s lawyers, Ralph Ramkarran, SC, afterwards told Kaieteur News that the bank has now submitted over 12,000 documents and based on his information that was what was ordered by the court.
However, SOCU which is represented by the Attorney General Chambers, is disputing it has received everything.
Ramkarran said that it was agreed during the proceedings yesterday that the bank would examine its records to verify if this is true.
The matter has been adjourned to December 11.
According to the lawyer, another source of contention during the court session yesterday was the certification of documents.
SOCU is unhappy with the certification which in effect speaks to whether documents are true copies of bank documents.
The police unit is claiming that the current certification would not be able to stand up to scrutiny in court.
Lawyers will now have to present arguments, Ramkarran said.
On October 20, last, the High Court granted the bank time to search for transaction documents relating to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
The privately-controlled bank was battling SOCU over the release of information pertaining to bank accounts of the Rice Board. A number of other banks reportedly complied but there was a problem with GBTI, according to SOCU.
Initially the bank was concerned with the privacy of accounts but changed its mind…in this case the account belonged to a state-owned company, GBTI, that is being investigated.
However, the bank is insisting that it complied. Last month, it was over 9,000 documents or copies of that were handed over.
SOCU says it had requested the information since February but delays it believed were deliberate in nature, caused it to approach the courts, both the Magistrate’s Court and the High Court, for orders to force GBTI to comply.
The police unit, which focuses on financial crimes, filed contempt charges last month against eight officials, including the entire board of directors and the current chief, claiming that the bank did not comply, despite being granted extensions.
Seven of the directors and the bank’s chief later appeared in court and were read the charges before being released on self-bail.
Yesterday, accompanying state lawyers was SOCU’s head, Assistant Commissioner, Sydney James. For the bank, the lawyers were Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran and Stephen Fraser.
It will be recalled that on August 29, the CJ granted Production Orders asking GBTI to submit a number of documents within seven days.
Among other things, SOCU wanted to know details of transaction relating to the GRDB foreign accounts, over a number of years.
Last month, Ramkarran said that the bank faced challenges as it receives thousands of documents per day- so it is “appreciated” that some of these can’t be found.
He said that the bank cannot account for about 150 documents that SOCU is asking for. However, 9000-plus documents were supplied.
He said that the bank asked for more time to find the missing documents.
Several former GRDB officials, including board members and Opposition Parliamentarians, have been charged with fraud crimes involving millions of dollars.
SOCU’s battles have embroiled the Director of Public Prosecutions who was accused of causing delays in the charges.
The DPP chambers last month questioned the investigative capacity of the police.
However, the administration defended SOCU’s work, saying that it has released resources and training, both local and overseas to the unit.
The lawyer for the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack, happens to be Senior Counsel Robin Stoby, the current Chairman of the Board of Directors for GBTI, raising the spectre of a possible conflict of interest situation.
SOCU is tracking down US$500M that GRDB handled as far back as 2010.
Those monies represented transfers from the Ministry of Finance to pay rice farmers and millers who participated in a lucrative rice-for-oil deal with neighbouring Venezuela.
Farmers and millers, up to 2015, would supply rice, through GRDB.
Under the deal, Guyana received oil, at concessional rates and conditions…Guyana would pay part of the money upfront and the rest over a number of years. The delayed oil money was what the Ministry of Finance paid over to the GRDB to pay rice farmers and millers.
SOCU is reportedly contending that GRDB used those monies to grant illegal loans to some rice millers and even organisations close to the former ruling party.
GRDB is being investigated, also, about a number of transfers overseas to a number of banks.
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