Latest update March 25th, 2023 12:52 AM
Mar 02, 2023 News
…but failed to prosecute a single person- Report
Kaieteur News – During the period 2016 to 2020, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) received 100 reports of suspicious transactions, but only half of these were investigated while none was prosecuted.
This was outlined in Guyana’s second Money Laundering/ Terrorist Financing (ML/ TF) National Risk Assessment (NRA) Report. According to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall SC, the NRA report was done to ensure compliance with international obligations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which requires all countries on an ongoing basis, to identify, assess, and understand their money laundering and terrorist financing risks.
The exercise had commenced in December 2019 and was conducted by a Working Group (WG) of over 70 persons representing public and private sector agencies in Guyana. The report was made available for public perusal on October 31, 2022.
The report notes that one of the sources of information for SOCU’s investigations is intelligence reports from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) arising out of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) submitted to the unit. For the assessed period, the FIU forwarded 100 intelligence reports for investigation including follow-up reports. Despite this large number of intelligence reports received, the report said less than half were investigated, none resulted in prosecution or convictions and approximately 36 were not assigned for investigation as of the end of 2020.
Among the reasons listed for the lack of money laundering cases moving forward for prosecution are, the lack of adequate human resources, insufficient evidence, and the fact that such offences in Guyana were summary offences only (e.g. investigators had to bring a charge with the offence of ML within six months of the commission of the offence).
In August 2017, the report notes that there was an amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act which made the offence indictable as well. This allows for charges to be brought at any time after the commission of the offence.
Despite the unit’s challenges, Kaieteur News understands that SOCU managed to forward one case to the Director of Public Prosecutions for ML charges in 2020. That matter related to a man and a woman (scheme administrators) who would recruit persons to join in what was essentially a Ponzi scheme. The victims were convinced that after placing their investments with the scheme administrators, their investments could triple their initial installment within a week, of which a fee would be payable to the scheme administrators for their services. However, within the span of a few months, the scheme administrators purchased several multi-million-dollar properties. The initial investigation has revealed that the legitimate income of the two suspects were insufficient to purchase the properties. The Office of the DPP advised that further investigations be conducted to determine whether the two suspects can be charged for ML as a standalone offence. Based on an analysis of the data and statistics provided by the authorities, the Working Group that prepared the report concluded that the offences investigated were all committed in Guyana, and the proceeds are likely laundered in Guyana as well.
The report was keen to note that the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (GPF/SOCU) has the mandate of investigating money laundering cases in Guyana. The Head of SOCU holds the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police.
Importantly, the report notes that SOCU also has an administration and management problem given that since the formation of the unit in 2014 it is now with its third Head. The report said this has the potential to hamper growth and development.
Further, information also suggests that there is a high turnover rate of staff at SOCU, and accordingly, the unit is not benefitting from the huge investments into training of staff.
The report states that the overall perception of SOCU by the reporting entities and competent authorities is that more can be done to improve its operations and outputs, especially as it pertains to convictions.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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