Supporters of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are expected to do a lot more complaining in coming weeks/months as the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) and the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) continue to collate their evidence and place the people responsible for allegedly pillaging our national assets in prison where they belong.
Many of the Opposition party’s faithful have taken to social media and other outlets in recent weeks to complain that the Coalition Government, through SOCU and SARA, was targeting the PPP’s leadership with so-called “trumped up” criminal charges. They’ve called it a witch hunt and characteristically, they have managed to tint SOCU’s investigations into their wrongdoing with racism.
This most recent round of complaints was spawned when images of the former Finance Minister and the NICIL boss being escorted into and out of the Victoria Law Courts were carried in the daily newspapers. The pair were indicted and charged with misconduct in public office, for allegedly disposing of prime seaside state lands well below market value to specially selected buyers. The charges suggest that Millions in taxpayer funds have been forfeited or misappropriated via the offices run by these people.
Two very senior officials at SARA, Aubrey Retemeyer and Eric Phillips subsequently appeared as guests on a radio show and said that the agency is doing everything within its power to recover several billions of dollars in unaccounted-for cash, vehicles, properties, state lands and other assets apparently misappropriated during the 23 years the PPP spent in office.
Long before 2015 the man in the street had been voicing fears that the day would never come when the PPP cabal would lose their grip on power and the machinery of state. That day did come, but the costs, in time and money, to ferret out the details of the numerous malfeasances committed during that era, are really overwhelming and time consuming.
The search for the missing funds and assets still moves too slowly to give John Q. Public much satisfaction, and s/he had begun to show signs of anticipation fatigue. S/he was beginning to lose hope that even some of their missing patrimony would have been found.
But today the fire of hope is burning again. We are seeing some things coming to light through the high quality forensic analyses and investigations still ongoing at SARA and SOCU. So far, their Forensic Accountants and ICT specialists have quietly unearthed billions of hidden dollars and properties in foreign countries.
Both Heath and Phillips told the nation last May that SARA was working with international police and financial investigators to ferret out the hiding places and return those billions to Guyana’s treasury. To date, SARA has shortlisted more than 100 cases of ‘lost and found’ cash, property, bonds and other types of securities. Their sleuths, both domestic and international, are in the process of building solid cases.
By December 2018, the public will be apprised of the progress made with the first ten of the most solvable cases. SARA said that they are more interested in recovering Guyana’s assets. The task of jailing the guilty is a role for SOCU.
There’s another key element to this scenario. Because there was no wholesale removal of the PPP’s lieutenants from the various ministries and agencies after the 2015 elections, the acts of fraud have continued to bedevil this government’s efforts to ‘clean up’ and to account for every cent of the Guyanese people’s money.
Put simply, corruption, though diminished, still has a chance to thrive, 1) because it had become endemic at all levels throughout the public service; 2) contrary to the PPP’s claim that their supporters were being ‘witchhunted’, they were allowed to keep their portfolios, and the ability to perpetrate all sorts of mischief.
SARA believes that procurement fraud alone, pre- and post 2015 amounts to G$28 Billion annually. Smuggled gold across our borders and through the Atlantic is still pegged at about 15,000 ounces per week, some of which reaches India and the Middle East.
The best part is that many of the investigators involved in SOCU and SARA’s operations have little to no affiliation to Guyana’s past or present. They are conducting their searches with complete objectivity.
It is apt to note that SARA was formally established in mid 2015 by this Government, but it was the PPP that had set up SOCU. Reportedly, the main motive was to offer some assurance to the western world that it was ‘dealing with corruption’. It is this same agency with the same people hired before 2015 who are now righteously going after the people who have transgressed the law.
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the PPP hollers ‘political victimization’. We can only pray for these calls to racism to end.
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