“Both defendants owe an explanation to the court, the State, the government and the people of Guyana, as to where the $600 M is. The evidence cries for an explanation as to what happened to the money,” State Counsel Natasha Backer argued yesterday.
Her arguments come weeks after lawyers representing former Minister of Public Service, Dr. Jennifer Westford, and her Personnel Officer, Ms. Margaret Cummings, presented extensive arguments for the multimillion-dollar simple larceny charge to be dismissed.
The prosecution yesterday contended otherwise.
Dr. Westford and Ms. Cummings have denied 24 simple larceny charges which alleged that between August 2011 and April 2015, while being employed in the Public Service of Guyana, they stole $639,420,000. They are currently out of $4.8M bail each.
According to court facts, Westford was employed as Minister of Public Service from 2001-2015, while her co-accused was the principal personnel officer of the Ministry.
Cummings was also in charge of the Ministry’s accounts department.
It was allegedly discovered that on numerous occasions Westford signed memoranda amounting to $639,420,000 and sent them to the Office of the President for approval. Approval was granted and cheques were prepared and encashed by Bank of Guyana (BoG).
The monies were requested to carry out various activities throughout the 10 administrative regions. However, personnel from the various regions were contacted and denied ever receiving the cash. Investigations were carried out, but the monies were never recovered.
Yesterday when the matter was called before Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman, State Counsel Natasha Backer replied to the no-case submission that was put forward by the defendants’ lawyers.
The Prosecutor in her reply started off by asking the Magistrate to disregard any alleged evidence attributed to at least 10 persons, who were labeled witnesses in the matter by the defence, since those persons never testified in the trial.
Responding to arguments by the attorney Dexter Todd that Dr. Jennifer Westford is not a Public Officer, and therefore, the charges against her have no legal basis, Backer said that the charge is good in law and the defendants should be called to lead their defence.
“The evidence throughout the trial shows that Westford requested via 24 memoranda, specific amount of monies, for specific activities, for specific regions and for different periods,” Backer said.
She went on to tell the court that substantial evidence then points to Cummings, who is said to have signed and collected the $600M, and soon after the monies disappear without a trace.
With all this evidence, the Prosecutor told the court, it is only right that the defendants should be called upon by the court to lead a defence in the matter.
On July 31 last, the lawyers representing the defendants had told the court that the prosecution had failed to prove that the monies were stolen and that the monies were stolen by the defendants.
They had told the court that the prosecution brought no evidence in their case which prima facie establishes the elements of the charge of Larceny by Public Officers, and their clients should not be called upon to lead a defence.
The defendants are being represented by Senior Counsel Neil Boston and Dexter Todd, while the prosecution’s case is headed by State Counsel Natasha Backer and State Counsel Teshanna Lake. Magistrate Latchman instructed Dr Westford and Ms. Cummings to return to court on August 14, when she is expected to making a ruling on whether or not she thinks there is enough evidence to call upon them to lead their defence in the matter.
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