After being on trial for over a year for allegedly failing to comply with a production order issued by the Chief Justice, eight high ranking officials of Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), were freed yesterday after a related charge against them was dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
Those who were charged were Chairman, Robin Stoby; 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 a production order granted by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire, for them to produce certain documents to the head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James.
The order was made on August 29, 2017.
They were on trial before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
They were represented by a battery of lawyers, including Nigel Hughes.
Before handing down her ruling, yesterday, the Chief Magistrate outlined that in order to prove guilt the prosecution is obligated to adduce sufficient evidence.
She added the prosecution must therefore prove that a production order was granted and that the order was violated without reasonable cause by the eight defendants.
The Chief Magistrate in passing her ruling said that she considered the evidence led by the Prosecution headed by Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) Prosecutor, Patrice Henry.
The Magistrate said she also considered the no-case submission which was made by the defence attorneys, and the prosecution’s reply in that regard.
According to the Chief Magistrate, “The court having considered the prosecution’s evidence is satisfied that there is a production order dated August 29, 2017, which was made by the honourable Chief Justice.”
She added that the court was also satisfied that the time for the production of the documents in the said order was seven days after service on the defendants, and that this date was subsequently extended to November 3, 2017 on October 20, 2017.
She went on to say that a further extension was made on November 7, 2018 which extended time for compliance was dated August 29, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
The magistrate added that upon examining the evidence by the court, it was revealed that the defendants were charged on October 23, 2017. This, she said, was supported by the evidence of Assistant Commissioner of Police Sydney James.
Chief Magistrate McLennan, therefore, outlined that the evidence suggested that the time of the production of the document dated August 29, 2017 was already varied.
“The evidence of Sydney James and Sherronie James showed that both witnesses were present and were aware of the variation of the order and were both present when the charge was read against the defendants,” the Magistrate added.
The Magistrate ruled that from the evidence lead by the Prosecution, at the time of the laying of the charge before the court, the prosecution was aware that the time for the production of the documents stated in the production order had varied to a date which was not yet expired due to the order being further extended.
The Chief Magistrate underscored, “The court therefore logically concludes that the time for production order stated in the production order was an essential element for the offence charged and crucial in proving the offence.
“The court after carefully considering the evidence can safely conclude that the Prosecution has failed to lead sufficient evidence to satisfy each element of the offence charged to the court’s satisfaction and this is an essential element of the offence which is crucial to the prosecution case.”
She added that the court is of the opinion that there can be no breach of failing to comply with the production order since the date of compliance had not yet expired.
She added that she is of the opinion that the Prosecution’s case was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
As a result of the aforementioned circumstances, the Chief Magistrate upheld the no-case submission made by lawyers for the banking officials.
Hours after the ruling, GBTI issued a statement which read, “Despite the ongoing public war of words against GBTI which seemed designed to sully the esteemed reputation of the distinguished members of the Board and the financial institution they represent, the Bank is grateful that this malicious attack on its integrity and that of staff has been brought to a predictable end in the Court.
“While this unwarranted attack and abuse of power was not without severe and widespread consequences to the sterling institutional image and that of the personal reputation of distinguished Directors and staff, GBTI withstood the onslaught with customers rallying around in support.”
The statement continued, “GBTI wishes to express its gratitude to so many customers and friends who expressed their support in so many ways through this traumatic, shameful charade.
“To the attorneys who distinguished themselves by the highest standards of legal representation possible we are duty bound to publicly congratulate each of you.”
It was reported that SOCU which is tracking down 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 and 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, 2017, 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 monies are not from private accounts, but rather from the US dollar and other accounts of GRDB, a state entity.
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