Aug 28, 2021 News
Elections fraud cases…
Kaieteur News – The trial for the persons charged with electoral fraud will commence only after the prosecution properly indexes and labels the Statements of Polls (SOPs) and Statements of Recounts (SORs), so that it can be disclosed to the court and defence.
This is the latest development on the matter, which was yesterday called in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan. It was adjourned to October 11, 2021.
The trial was expected to commence yesterday for Chairperson of the People’s National Congress (PNC), Volda Lawrence; former Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo; A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) activist, Carol Smith-Joseph; GECOM’s Information Technology Officer – Enrique Livan and GECOM Clerks: Michelle Miller, Sheffern February and Denise Bab-Cummings.
However, when the matter was called, the court heard that there is additional evidence to be disclosed. The matter was faced with delays since it was held via Zoom, which had proven to be difficult for some of the defendants who had a hard time logging on to the online platform.
The Chief Magistrate and the junior prosecutors in the matter appeared from in the City court, while the defendants, their lawyers, attorney-at-law Darshan Ramdhani, who is the head prosecutor in the matters and reporters joined the hearing virtually.
Ramdhani in his address to the court explained that after copying the SOPs and SORs and going through it in its entirety, they noticed that some of the pages were not copied properly and found to be indecipherable. As such, he made an application to the court for more time to sort out the thousands of copies for each constituency.
The head prosecutor further noted that they made nine copies of the SOPs and SORs, but unfortunately, only three were deemed to be legible. He added that the three bundles were sorted out and is ready to be handed over to the court and defence along with video evidence.
Those three bundles of the SOPs and SORs were brought to court in three clear containers, however, when Magistrate McLennan enquired if they were properly labelled and separated so that the court can easily document it; she was informed that it was parceled off but not to the extent she had queried about.
Chief Magistrate McLennan then suggested that the evidence be properly sorted out and that bolder labels be put on the containers and each parcel of SOPs and SORs before disclosure is made – both the prosecution and defence agreed with this.
The matter will continue in October before the Chief Magistrate and by then the prosecution is expected to be ready to hand over the properly sorted out and indexed SOPs and SORs, so that full disclosure can be made to the court and the defence.
The court heard that after disclosure is made, a decision will be taken on how the trial will be conducted since some of the defendants have joint and individual charges. Lead prosecutor, Ramdhani, yesterday attempted to make an application in this regard but Chief Magistrate McLennan suggested that, that will be done after full disclosure is made.
Prior to the discussion on the indexing and sorting out of the SOPs and SORs, the matter was delayed for over 30 minutes since some of the defendants were left in the Zoom waiting room due to the fact that they failed to join the virtual meeting using their correct name making it easy to identify them.
Earlier this year, the Chief Magistrate had ruled on the mode of trial for Lawrence, Mingo and Smith-Joseph’s court matter. The Magistrate had ruled that the matter will be tried summarily.
Kaieteur News had reported that the Defence Attorneys had asked the court for the matters to be tried indictably, which means, that a preliminary inquiry (PI) will be conducted in the Magistrates’ Courts and if sufficient evidence is found, the matter will then be sent to be tried before a Judge and Jury in the High Court.
However, the special prosecuting team objected to the matter being tried indictably and had asked the court for the matters to be tried summarily, which means, that the matter will be tried and disposed of in the Magistrates’ Courts.
The Chief Magistrate had then ordered both the prosecution and the defence attorneys to make their submissions, and had set a date for the ruling on the mode of trial. This resulted in her ruling in favour of the prosecution, and as such, the matter will be tried in the Magistrates’ Courts as opposed to going to the High Court for trial.
Some of the charges the defendants are facing are misconduct in public office, conspiracy to commit fraud, forging a document and forgery.
Mingo faces a joint charge with Lawrence, another with Smith-Joseph and two separate joint forgery charges. In addition to the joint charge with Mingo, Smith-Joseph also faces two individual charges.
Moreover, Livan, who was named in a USB flash drive scandal surrounding the tabulations of votes that happened on March 5, 2020, was slapped with one fraud charge, and February, another GECOM employee, is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud. Miller and Bab-Cummings, who are GECOM clerks, were both slapped with two fraud charges each.
The Police had announced in August 2020, that they will be conducting a comprehensive investigation into the criminal conduct of former Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; former Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers; Mingo and others, in relation to the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections and the events that followed. During the ongoing probe, several GECOM officials were arrested and placed before the court for electoral fraud charges.
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