It was the first major case filed against a former minister of the previous administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). It was supposed to build on the widespread allegations of corruption that dogged not only the Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration, but the shortened one of Donald Ramotar, by proving in the court of law that there was widespread fraud and financial impropriety.
However, it appears that the court cases all continue to be plagued with problems.
By extension, it has affected the work of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), an arm of the police that specializes in fraud and money laundering matters.
On Friday, Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman ruled that in the highly publicized case against former government minister Dr. Jennifer Westford, and her Administrative Assistant, Ms. Margaret Cummings, the charges were all bad in law.
Westford and Cummings had pleaded not guilty to 24 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 were out on $4.8M bail each pending trial.
According to Magistrate Latchman: “I find that at the material time, Dr. Westford and Ms. Cummings were not Public Officers and since all the charges were for the offence of Larceny by Public Officers. I find that all the charges are bad in law.”
This in layman’s terms meant that the charges were incorrectly laid.
While SOCU did not conduct the investigations in the case against the former minister and her assistant, it would raise questions about the quality of
advice being given to the police and SOCU by extension.
Yesterday, SOCU’s head, Assistant Commissioner, Sydney James, would not immediately discuss a number of other cases that his unit is handling. He did make it clear that Westford and her former assistant matter were investigated by the police’s Criminal Investigations Department, prior to being charged.
However, a senior police source yesterday insisted that investigators are being made the scapegoat for cases that they were given advice on.
“There is a Police Legal Advisor and there is the Director of Public Prosecutions. If the investigators did their job and the matter goes for legal advice, can you blame the investigators if the charges are incorrectly laid? The investigators are taking blows. That is not fair. As you are a newspaper, you have to dig deeper. The true story is not being told. Who is giving the advice?”
The court case against Westford and her former colleague would have lasted two and a half years. Taking into account that it would have taken time to investigate, that meant that the cases against the two are over three years old.
There are a number of other cases similar to Westford that police officials and SOCU are paying close attention to.
One involves two former high profile officials under the PPP/C – Dr. Ashni Singh, the former Finance Minister, and Winston Brassington, the controversial ex-head of the Privatisation Unit.
They were arraigned in May, accused of Misconduct in Public Office, and granted $6M bail.
While the charges are the same as Westford and Cummings, the ‘public office’ scenario is very much a factor. Both men have appealed to the high court on the charges.
They are being accused to selling prime lands on the East Coast of Demerara in the Liliendaal/Pattensen area below market prices, thus causing the state to lose millions.
SOCU officials said that there are more than 200 active investigations stemming from a number of forensic audits.
Mar 20, 2019The West Demerara Cricket Association (WDCA) has launched another competition dubbed the “WDCA/Beacon Café 50 Over competition”. Eighteen teams have entered this competition which will be played...
Here are my opinions on the unfolding political scenario. 1– From the time President Granger selected Patterson outside... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]