Aug 22, 2020 News
– released on $100,000 bail
Former Sports Director, Christopher Jones was arrested and later released on $100,000 station bail yesterday over allegations of simple larceny of a quantity of barber chairs among other items reportedly belonging to the State.
The search was conducted out in relation to an audit carried out at the former Ministry of Social Protection, which showed that they had approved the payout of almost $5 million under the Region Four administration for the procurement of equipment for a barbershop under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme.
A review of a grant received by Jones revealed that the full amount was spent by December 31, 2019; however over $1M in items were in fact not delivered and the project was not executed. The balance of the items, were stored at Jones’ home.
Two vanloads of armed policemen had turned up at Jones’ Tucville residence in search of the equipment on Thursday evening but the entire ordeal was laced with controversy, caught on live camera. The ranks arrived during a power outage and reportedly did not possess the requisite documentation needed to carry out the search.
Jones’ attorney, Darren Wade who was present at the scene told Kaieteur News that he obtained a court order from Justice Brassington Reynolds aimed at preventing the ranks from conducting the search. Despite this, Wade said, the ranks pushed their way through, carrying out the search and later arrested Jones at around 1 am on Friday morning.
Commander of A’ Division, Simon McBean had told Kaieteur News on Thursday evening that he was not informed of any such operation from his ranks nor is he aware of the allegations made against Jones, making it clear that ranks at Jones’ house were not under his jurisdiction. Reports of the harsh treatment meted out to Jones by the police flooded the media and the Force in a bid to offer clarity said that they were “acting on reports received.”
“The Guyana Police Force wishes to state that acting upon a report received with regards to State assets and Mr. Jones, police ranks did conduct a search and items fitting the description of the State assets that were first observed as being in the residence of Christopher Jones were recovered,” the Force said in their release.
The release, though aimed at seeking clarity left more questions than answers as several key aspects of the operation were excluded. Journalists via the Force’ media group inquired which arm of the GPF carried out the operation and most importantly, if any documentation was provided to the police to show that the items in his position did not belong to him. Those questions remain unanswered.
Subsequently after his release, the former Sports Director took to social media in attempts to clear his name from the allegations being presented. Jones explained that he applied for a “loan” last year through the SLED programme via the then Social Protection Minister led by Amna Ally.
It should be noted that the SLED programme does not provide loans, but in fact grants which do not have to be repaid. Jones explained that he applied for funding to buy 16 barber chairs, an air-conditioning unit, and other equipment for a barbershop in Festival City and same was granted by the subject minister at the time.
He was adamant that the items that were removed from his home were his.
“Having been granted the approval through the SLED programme and the RDC, those items are my possession. Nothing illegal was done, the only thing illegal done was the police entering my premises and removing my property,” Jones added.
Then Minister Anma Ally had said that the previous administration had expended almost $250M to increase employment opportunities at the community level through the project. What remains unclear at this point is what criteria was required for grants to be issued via the project and under what arrangement Jones qualified as a recipient.
Former President, David Granger and leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) sought to condemn the actions of the police and others, deeming it a violation of “rights and freedom of Christopher Jones.”
In a statement, Granger said, “The actions of ranks of the Guyana Police Force, who blatantly disregarded an order of the court and unlawfully entered the premises of Mr. Christopher Jones; arrested him and illegally seized personal property, must be stoutly condemned and immediately investigated.”
He added that the PNCR will not allow this type of harassment of former public servants or any citizen “by agents of the State to stand” and called on all Guyanese to strongly condemn “this abuse of State power and the persecution of an innocent man.”
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