As one of the persons who aided in the establishment of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), as well as one who is a victim of its malicious prosecution, I feel compelled to comment upon the shocking disclosures of corruption, fraud, abuse of power and the rogue conduct on the part of officers of SOCU, which emanated from the recently concluded audit of the Unit.
These damning disclosures must be viewed against the constant public criticisms, which I have levelled against SOCU since May 2015. You would recall that in many statements in the press, myself and other leaders of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), have repeatedly lamented that SOCU has strayed far from its original and statutory mandate of investigating reports supplied to it by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), in respect of money laundering, financing of terrorism, drug trafficking and other organised crimes and has metamorphosed into a Unit taking directions from the Office of the President and other political quarters to witch hunt the Opposition and those who either serve the PPP Government or are perceived to be its supporters.
One would recall, the disastrous unauthorized motor surveillance of those who were believed to be Winston Brassington’s family, in December 2015, which led to a deadly crash, killing a young soldier and his wife, leaving two children orphaned. The then Commissioner of Police, publicly, declared that he holds no actual responsibility for SOCU and its operational pursuits. It has been downhill for SOCU since.
Minister Joseph Harmon admitted in the National Assembly that SOCU was being financed from the budget of the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP). Attorney General, Basil Williams, conceded in the Committee of Supply that the Ministry of Legal Affairs budgets hundreds of millions of dollars to pay special Prosecutors to prosecute charges instituted against members of the Opposition by SOCU. Shalimar Ali-Hack, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), herself, was being investigated by SOCU. Clearly, the advice to do so did not come from that office. It came from political quarters. Then recently, the DPP swore an affidavit in certain High Court matters stating that she did not advise on a series of criminal charges, which have been instituted by SOCU.
One cannot omit the wine drinking session between Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, Dr. Sam Sittlington, Attorney General, Basil Williams and the Head of SOCU, the day the Leader of the Opposition and a number of PPP leaders were arrested and taken down to SOCU for questioning. It is also public knowledge that the Attorney General instructed SOCU to charge me with larceny of my own property. This was after a special audit commissioned by him was done by the Auditor General, who found that there was no wrongdoing.
All of the above occurred before this audit was done but cumulatively, they form far more than sufficient grounds to close-down SOCU.
In addition to the damaging findings contained in the audit report, there are many businessmen who can relate but are afraid to, about the millions of dollars that were either stolen from them or extracted as bribes by SOCU officers. It is a public secret within the business community.
No organisation with such a horrendous track-record can remain as part of the law enforcement arm of the State. The likelihood of destroying or concocting evidence for reward, or carrying out political directions is simply too overwhelming. The fact that SOCU Prosecutors are hired and paid by the Attorney General, an active politician, and those chosen, thus far, are operating out of his private law office and out of the private law office of another Minister/politician and another one is the brother of a sitting Minister, make the whole process too politically incestuous and toxic to meet the standard required for the administration of criminal justice in a civilized society.
A Prosecutor is a minister of justice. His duty is not to seek a conviction, but simply to place before the Court the relevant and admissible evidence. We have had situations where SOCU Prosecutors have refused to hand over to the defence a forensic audit report from which the charge stem, which they are prosecuting. Prosecutors have a duty to provide such information to the defence and an accused person has a constitutional right to receive such information as a facility for his defence. In the GRDB cases, this facility was denied to the accused persons and their lawyers.
Of course, I can say much more, but I believe that I have made a sufficient case for this Unit to be, immediately, disbanded. We cannot simply afford to place the cherished freedoms of our citizens in its hands.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP
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