Chief Justice (ag), Roxanne George-Wiltshire, on Friday, temporarily stopped the police Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) from asking the privately-owned, Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry (GBTI) to share information on money laundering investigation.
Chief Magistrate, Ann Mc Lennan had granted the order to SOCU last week.
The investigation involves Guyana World Cup Inc., a special company that was set up to coordinate the 2007 Cricket World Cup activities in Guyana.
But SOCU would continue to focus on financial crimes and the bank.
On December 6, based on an application made by head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sydney James, the Chief Magistrate issued an order that SOCU be at liberty to inspect and receive statement of accounts, withdrawal and deposit slips, loans and any other credit facilities at the bank.
It also granted SOCU the right to inspect applications to facilitate accounts or any transactions whether approved or not, details of safe deposit box-current or closed–, wire transfers, mortgagors, managers cheques, and details of any suspicious or unused cash or large transactions issued by or in the name of the Guyana World Cup Inc-91 Middle Street, Georgetown.
SOCU wanted information for the period 1st November, 2006 to December 31st, 2016.
The bank should have turned over these documents to SOCU not later than the 16th December, 2017 (yesterday), according to the Chief Magistrate’s order.
However, GBTI’s Corporate Secretary, Shaleeza Shaw, through lawyers Cameron and Shepherd, believed that the order by Mc Lennan should be quashed on the ground that the said decision is unlawful, void and of no legal effect.
Shaw in court documents to the High Court claimed that her lawyers have advised that while the law allows a court or judge to order that its books be inspected, the Chief Magistrate did not have the power to order that “James receive copies of documents.” The bank officials are also arguing the SOCU did not properly file its court request therefore the Chief Magistrate’s order could not have been right in her order.
Shaw said that based on her legal advice, the bank therefore has no legal obligation to hand over copies of bankers’ books to SOCU.
Cricket World Cup was said to have millions of dollars unaccounted for. It involved not only advances but a controversial contract to purchase BMWs for cricket officials.
Some of those vehicles ended up in the hands of persons close to the then PPP/C administration as well as in the hands of a few business people.
With regards to the GBTI and SOCU matter, it is not the first time that the two are clashing.
There are pending matters, including a criminal contempt charge against the banks’ board of directors and Shaw.
There is also another matter before the Chief Justice, who issued Friday’s orders. This one has been going on for a few months. It involves a US$500M investigation at the Guyana Rice Development Board, said to be payments between 2010 and 2015 to accounts overseas.
SOCU is claiming that the bank dragged its foot on giving details of transactions.
The bank is, however, insisting it complied.
The Cricket World Cup matter has been adjourned to January 8, 2018, before the CJ.
SOCU will have to wait until then to hear if it can request the information.
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