The final witness in the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) contempt trial yesterday commenced giving evidence before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
The officials charged for the offence are Chairman, Robin Stoby S.C; and Directors, Edward A. Beharry, Suresh Beharry, Richard Isava, Carlton James and Basil Mahadeo, along with Chief Executive Officer (ag) Shaleeza Shaw and Kathryn Eytle-McLean.
They all denied the charge which alleged that on September 7 at Georgetown, they failed to comply with production order granted by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, for them to produce certain documents to head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James. The order was made on August 29.
Testifying yesterday was Special Superintendent Sherronne James, who is stationed at the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). James told the court that she is a forensic analyst and she is the holder of a Masters in Business Administration. She added that she works for 15 countries internationally looking at corrupt organisations and dealing with banks.
James told the court that while she was conducting investigation at the Guyana Rice Board Development (GRDB), she made certain findings involving several bank accounts.
She then found out which organisation the bank accounts were at and the co-owners of the bank. James then told the court that she found out that the main bank account was at GBTI.
The court heard that based on her findings during her investigation, it caused her to make several court orders. James told that court that on August 29, 2017 a production order was granted by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, to be served on the GBTI, the bank at which GRDB had held a US dollar account.
She added that she was present when the order was served to the GBTI accountant who was acting on the behalf of GBTI. James added that on September 6, last she arrived at SOCU where she saw several persons and she collected four envelopes from her colleague. Upon checking the envelopes, she did not see any certification stamps on the documents.
She added that between September 7 and September 13, she received six additional envelopes. James testimony was then suspended until April 10 when the defendants will make their next court appearance. The matter is being prosecuted by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Patrice Henry.
SOCU, as part of a probe into US$500M that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) handled as far back as 2010, submitted files to the DPP recommending contempt charges against GBTI’s eight directors. This was after the bank and SOCU were locked in a battle over information concerning the GRDB accounts, since February.
SOCU is contending that the bank failed or stalled. It gave all kinds of excuses, and even destroyed pertinent records relating to GRDB.
SOCU reportedly argued that other banks complied, but it was finding it hard going with GBTI.
SOCU received four court orders, including one from the high court, asking that GBTI hand over the information.
In late August, the acting Chief Justice granted production orders to SOCU, giving the bank a week to hand over certain information. That deadline expired in early September, and the bank was reportedly granted some extra time. However, the deadline elapsed and SOCU prepared files recommending the charges of contempt against the directors.
Under tough anti-money laundering laws, once court orders are granted, financial institutions are reportedly bound to provide information. In this case, the moneys are not from private accounts, but rather from the US-dollar and other accounts of GBTI, a state entity.
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