Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan yesterday ruled that Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) forensic analyst, Special Superintendent Sherronne James, is not an expert witness.
Her ruling was made in a case involving high ranking officials from the Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry (GBTI).
This was after lawyers representing the officials contended that James does not meet the requisite qualification to give expert opinion in a certain field for which she had given evidence before.
Yesterday, the Magistrate told the court that the evidence produced by the witness is deemed “opinionated”, and such, she ruled that it is not admissible evidence, since the court is of the view that an expert witness cannot be opinionated.
Hence, James will not be allowed to continue giving evidence at this part of the trial.
The Magistrate added that the court will conduct a voir dire (trial within a trial) into the witness’s evidence and then the court will rule whether she can be deemed an expert witness.
However, the prosecution which is being led by SOCU Special Prosecutor Attorney-at-law Patrice Henry, is contending that the witness is an expert witness in the trial.
Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan adjourned the matter until June 19, for continuation.
The case involves 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, 2017 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, last.
James, in her evidence, had told the court that she is a forensic analyst and that 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.
She added that it was while she was conducting an investigation at the Guyana Rice Board Development (GRDB), that 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 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 GBTI, the bank at which GRDB had held a US dollar account.
She added that she was present when the order was served on 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. She said that 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.
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 the court orders are granted, financial institutions are reportedly bound to provide information.
In this case, the money is not from private accounts, but rather from the US-dollar and other accounts of GBTI, a state entity.
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