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Ministry of the Presidency’s Permanent Secretary denies stealing public funds; suggests SOCU leaking info

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.

Embattled Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff has denied stealing monies belonging to Guyana’s treasury, and insisted that a probe by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) was merely about a personal tax matter with the Guyana Revenue Authority.

“The distortion of this personal income tax matter to make it appear to be theft and embezzlement of public funds was without any factual foundation and mischievous by those who did so,”he said in a statement.

When contacted Sunday morning, he confirmed issuing the statement to the media, but shied away from discussing at length a purported list of his cash and other assets published in the Kaieteur News newspaper and suggested that they might have been concocted. “That is if those things are correct…I will make no comment. you can call the lawyer at any time regarding those  things. It seems to be some sort of thing that somebody put together,”he told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Ministry of the Presidency has already stated in early June, 2016 that Shariff was sent on leave to facilitate a probe by SOCU into his personal tax liabilities.

He strongly suggested that top SOCU officials have been leaking purportedly detailed information about his alleged assets, accounts and their contents with an agenda aimed at trialing him in public, impugning his integrity and reducing his standing as a professional.

“I am disappointed that information I provided to SOCU and which SOCU took from my home pursuant to a search warrant has found its way into the public domain and has been deliberately skewed, distorted, misrepresented and misinterpreted for obvious sensationalism, implying I had stolen billions of dollars of public funds and owned billions of dollars worth of property and shares in public companies; none of which have any factual underpinning. This is simply not true,”he said.

The Permanent Secretary called on individuals within the organs of the State to exercise restraint in agenda setting and the divulging of information for sensationalism which compromises not only the State organs themselves but also the banking system, citizens’ confidence in the rule of law and Guyana as a maturing democracy.””

In his statement, the former executive member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) up until that party was voted out of office in May, 2015 strongly condemned the media for a series of vile, sensationalist, untrue, propagandistic, and, in substantial and material respects, misleading news reports.

He confirmed that SOCU’s probe was about a  personal matter related to tax remittance and compliance regarding my legitimate business operations over the past few years”dating back to 2007 rather than about the stealing of monies from the government’s coffers. The distortion of this personal income tax matter to make it appear to be theft and embezzlement of public funds was without any factual foundation and mischievous by those who did so,”he said. I would like it to be known that I have not been involved by myself or in collusion with others in any theft or embezzlement of public funds.””

Shariff said he was at a loss about the origin of information that he was holding billions of dollars in his bank accounts, adding that those reports have been taking a toll on him and his family. The continued publication of these have caused me and my family great concern- security, hardship and otherwise.””

While stating that he has “deep”respect for the media, he bemoaned the propagandistic peddling information calculated to tarnish his character and distort facts.

He said he has been cooperating fully with investigators and that in the end he would be cleared of the accusations. I wish to iterate my confidence in the Government and my expectation of the investigating bodies and all concerned with probing this matter that due process and justice will prevail and the rule of law maintained. I am confident that I will be vindicated at the end of this matter,” he said.

Abena Moore has since been shifted from the Ministry of Communities to the Ministry of the Presidency where she has been acting for Shariff since he has been asked to proceed on his annual leave to facilitate the probe.