Internet Radio

Political Scientists, Opposition Leader weigh in on Omar Sharif’s arrest for alleged tax evasion, money laundering

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon (Center) with Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Sharif at right.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon (Center) with Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Sharif at right.

Amid lingering concerns in some sections of Guyanese society about why the coalition government had not fired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Sharif shortly after assuming office more than one year ago, political analysts were Thursday offering mixed views about his arrest for alleged financial crimes.

Sharif was a staunch supporter of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) until it lost power in May 2015. Immediately after its defeat, he remained as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, formerly Office of the Presidency, until his arrest for alleged money laundering and tax evasion.  In a letter dated June 30, 2016 to Mr. Sharif, Minister of State Joseph Harmon wrote, “You will recall having informed me that you are now the subject of an investigation by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force.” The Minister informed Sharif in that letter that he should proceed on his Annual Leave from July 1, 2016 to enable him to fully cooperate with the investigation.

Political analyst, Dr. Henry Jeffrey said the decision by the government to retain Sharif as Permanent Secretary in such a key office can be interpreted to mean that the David Granger-led administration is not opposed to working with its detractors unless they are suspected of criminal activity. “Not getting rid of him would have been their way of saying they are working with PPP people without any bias but if now he is charged by police with this crime…this chap would have demonstrate that even people the coalition is willing to work with they are willing to go after,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

However, Political Science Professor, David Hinds, who has been leading the charge for those implicated in administrative and criminal wrongdoing in the numerous audit of state-owned entities to be sent home, welcomed the move to probe Sharif. “At the end of the day we are seeing movement in this direction. I do hope that this is not just a one-off situation because you have been seeing improprieties and instances of financial mismanagement are across the board so I am hoping that this move against the Permanent Secretary is not directed at him alone and that it is the beginning of a longer process,” said Hinds, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance which is part of the governing coalition.

Political Scientist, Freddie Kissoon also welcomed SOCU’s probe into Sharif’s financial dealings but believed that the coalition government should have taken swift action into Prado Ville Two, an upscale seaside residential area where Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and several other top PPP officials live. That area was once the radio transmitting site for the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN).  Kissoon hoped that Sharif’s arrest marks the beginning of a wave of similar actions which he says should be welcomed by supporters of the governing coalition. “The satisfaction will be natural because the past 15 years, the financial skullduggery has been nightmarish but I am not certain how swift it may be , how climatic it may be; we may very well end up with an anti-climatic situation in which senior officials will be charged but the ministers will go scotch-free.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo described Sharif as “a cherished member of the government for over a year” after he resigned from the PPP.  Noting that he had no details about the circumstances that led to the Permanent Secretary’s arrest for alleged financial crimes Jagdeo reiterated that the law must take its course. “If people have done anything illegal then they must face the consequences and so once there is an impartial, fair investigation and they police have available grounds for laying charges and once he is being treated fairly then I don’t have anything much to say; the law will have to take its course,” said Jagdeo.

The PPP has been arguing that the dismissal and prosecution of a number of persons was part of a witch-hunt against East Indians and pro-PPP Afro-Guyanese.

Minister of State Harmon explained that Sharif was arrested in connection with a probe by SOCU because of the large amounts of money he has been in possession of. “This is money laundering and tax evasion matters since its large sums of money that he has in his personal accounts,” Harmon told reporters.

Harmon said the investigations into Sharif’s financial dealings had nothing to do with his work at the Ministry of the Presidency. “These matters which came up are of a personal nature and they have to do with his own personal, private arrangement and have nothing to do with his actual office of Permanent Secretary,” he said.

Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Abena Moore would be acting as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency now that Sharif has been sent on annual leave to facilitate SOCU’s probe.

  • rs dasai

    Mr. Harmony.
    Since when having a ‘BIG’ bank balance is money laundering? Does this mean that businesses with large bank balances are involved in money laundering?

  • Col123

    These political scientists really are humorous …they either slept through basic philosophy classes or are porn-tificators who are trying to make a living….something is indeed fishy with this chap staying on… tokenism is one …the other reason was a fly trap pawn, now mature enough to spit out….Ramjhattam and Naggarman should pay homage to Teekak …et al ..some of those guys did not see God when they were alive…

  • Gtloyal

    Just as I have always defended the cause of the people in my own small way, especially in the call for action against corrupt officials, so I will also demand that every one investigated be treated fairly and in every step, according to what the law stipulates.
    When ministers start to make conclusive pronouncements the way Harmon is doing, apart from being seen as the executive meddling in the dispensation of justice, we could lose all impartiality as, along with other things, it will doubtlessly cause a public opinion to be formed which could influence those in charge of dispensing said justice.
    “… This is money laundering and tax evasion matters since its large sums of money that he has in his personal accounts …” Never knew having large sums was a crime. Why did Mr Harmon relate this to money laundering?Evading tax I’ll understand. Investigation to determine the origin of the money I’ll understand.
    Is it legal, by the way, for banks to divulge information about a person’s account to have a minister who is not a member of the law enforcement team investigating the matter, go out broadcasting it? (Or, is he a member?)
    What if Mr Harmon or someone close to him is found to have large sums of money in their personal accounts? Would that information be in the public domain? Or would it be cause for him to lose his portfolio and be hauled to court?
    I say these things because I want to see justice meted out objectively and in a timely manner and not being derailed through some technicality by the doings of some moron as this particular minister, time and time again, has proven himself to be.

    • Col123

      Here’s your chance to protest, loot and tear down the city..

      • Gtloyal

        ” Here’s your chance to protest ….”
        Never asked for your advice since the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. In any case permit me to say that here’s your chance to shut up and be thought a fool rather than write bullcrap and confirm it. Have a nice day.

        • Col123

          You are the one who wants to defend the cause of people!

          • Gtloyal

            “… loot and tear down the city.” Violence may be your way of defending your cause, not mine.
            Albert Einstein once said that “Great spirits always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”.

          • Col123

            My pastor said to me..with a lot of money and a great education, everyone will kiss your butt.. I know that he was right …

          • Gtloyal

            Go ahead brave. There are many around with a lot of money and a great education, some even have honorary doctorates, others online degrees. Do your thing.

          • Col123

            Bro…FYI… I a lucky to move on with my life out of Guyana at age 18 after cutting cane for a year at age 17, with eight O levels.Thanks to the PNC.. I refused to get a party card or changed to a Christian name. I am proud to earn eight years of University education at a prominent black university where a former leader of Guyana graduated.. I was taught black history inside out. From my profession, I am exposed to several cultures ..I have and will always hope for the best for Guyana because it is my nature..AND, I have this unbelievable ability to correlate facts to care about others..

          • Gtloyal

            I am glad for you. Yet … still, don’t forget us down here. After many decades, a couple of degrees , I have been back a few years. Its not as bad as it looks in the press. Its home. Your roots. Ethnicity should not be the determining factor. Get off it. Bravery has nothing to do with race.

          • Col123

            Inference to “brave” in some Native American population is a slur as much as, “boy” in our Afro American population… or anywhere as a matter of fact. Same follows reference to “Indian ” in
            Mayan or Incan population..it is insultive. I recall shedding one tear on an August 8th when I left Guyana decades ago…Guyanese suffer from ethnic qualitative superiority… No ethnic group can govern over the other …there is turmoil when the PPP governs,and the PNC does not have any clue on how to govern in many ways.. I pray for better opportunities for our citizens… Wish you a safe journey..

          • Gtloyal

            “… there is turmoil when the PPP governs,and the PNC does not have any clue on how to govern in many ways.”
            There will always be turmoil when the PPP governs because, for one, their thievery will never be accepted. Thats a fact. Even their Indian strongholds have turned away from them. Now, why do you say that the PNC does not have any clue on how to govern? They have done no worse than the PPP. Both parties have people educated at the same universities and at the same levels more or less. Is it because the PNC, to you, is mainly a “black people” party? You have no other valid reason. Do you see how racism influences your opinion? Its pathetic. Get over it. We are today experimenting with a government made up of people of different races and we have no need for destructive criticism from people of your ilk. If you are interested in your land of birth, ask yourself what you can do for it. Don’t leave it to others and sit on the side criticizing.
            May the good Father illuminate you.

          • Col123

            Agree with you. There are only saints in the PNC..you are entitled to you opinion and definitions of who is a rascist!

          • Gtloyal

            Those eight subjects were really ordinary levels, for ordinary you have remained. As for the eight years, that was a long time to pass under the university. For you have not changed one bit since the year cutting cane. Thank God Mr Nagamutoo is not of your caste.

          • Col123

            OK..I will admit that I am not from the Osu caste as you are…but of Mandinga heritage.

          • Gtloyal

            The osu caste system centres on ostracization which began when they refused to obey the orders of a king. Rather brave, don’t you think. Unlike those PPP soupies who kowtow to one who comes from the untouchables.
            Long live the coalition.
            I don’t think that this is the purpose of this forum so, as AS said, “hasta la vista, baby”. Have a good day.

    • The Viper

      It is more than likely is being called money laundering because it is under the mechanisms of the money laundering act that he is being investigated. Banks are now by law required to report monies that have been deposited without proper paper work to justify the legality of the money.

      However, i do find the timing of this very fishy.. especially with the hoopla of unnecessary road works etc. currently being carried out for the upcoming caricom meeting in Guyana… seems a facade is being created to show the “massive” progress that we have had in the last year while also putting the PPP perception of misdeeds on the front burner for the caricom community to see.

  • Neville

    Sacrificial Lamb: A high level PPP Operative stayed on in the PNC Office of the Presidency for over a year waiting to be sacrificed.

    • Col123

      He is a fool.. like he was played..the guy does not understand kith and kin politics… much less spending all the cash they say he has…too much money made him stupid like the current big shot minister who cash the $ 5 m…I am not for hanging but they should fillet him for being stupid…

    • rs dasai

      Neville
      Or is he paid to ‘hold on’ and promised what? Are these so called ‘deposits’
      of the current admin?

  • Emile_Mervin

    Funny thing is, this is only one fish in the sea of corruption, so why single him out for reeling in and being tossed into the frying pan? Was he caught sharing OP secrets with the PPP?

    And what happens to his money in the bank regardless of how he got it? In fact, what happens to all the other huge bank accounts with no traceable paper work leading to legitimate sources? What about bank accounts of associates and supporters of the Coalition?

    This case is where a precedent could or could not be set, because we were led or misled into believing a precedent was being set with charges against a former PPP minister, her boyfriend and her assistant in a series of violations, including some US$3m or GY$600m that was reportedly siphoned off.

    I can’t pronounce on guilt or innocence here, but this case keeps getting pused around and could be interminably delayed because of any number of reasons, chief of which seems to be could be political. That’s right, it seems like as though it is the government, not the DPP or police, that decides who gets prosecuted. Otherwise, how do we explain the US$5m GT&T shares documents that either show the money was paid or waived? Those documents belong in legal hands, dammit!

    BTW, on a somewhat related note, I did read that Brian Tiwari is getting into the newspaper business, which makes no financial dollars and sense in a country with 4 dailies and limited readership. It now makes me wonder whether Tiwari actually received any kind of money while in China.

    Omar Sharif is definitely not alone in Guyana when it comes to being in possession of money from questionable sources!

    • Col123

      Hon Granger should be getting on with the business of improving the lives of our citizens. ..he should have his folks stop with the bs… we can’t protect the witness.. the judicial system does not have any leather balls-uh ..teeth…Do something Pres..just do it .. don’ t squander it.. let some heads roll if it should..

  • Col123

    From reports, he did it in “small” sums in different banks.. But my point is that these distractions should not sideline the welfare of the citizens…we need to get the economy in the front.. Build consumer confidence…get the small businesses going..construction..investment… These crooks are just sidelining progress…Its past a year now.. What is the level of consumer confidence?…

  • Col123

    You left out the c word…watch your systolic pressure bro..malignant hypertension is common among Guyanese..

  • cuffy

    Can someone provide Hamilton Green’s sum from the fourteen years as mayor of gtown.

  • george wiltshire

    We are so steeped in race that we cannot help ourselves. This group could do the same thing and we would be at each others throats. We need to work at ensuring that they are made to return the money so that a better standard could be given to us who are forced to remain in Guyana. Thieving is wrong. Murdering is wrong. loving your race is right but loving your country is even better. There are thieves and murders in all races.The problem with mankind is SIN and the only answer to that is to be born again.