The Special Organised Crime Unit of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and its Head are now officially required to report directly to the Commissioner of Police.
“The SOCU is responsible to the Commissioner of Police for all investigations, detections, preventions and preparation of criminal investigative reports and case files for prosecutions of financial crimes, including money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” states the SOCU protocol that amends the GPF’s Standing Order No. 62.
The disclosure of the SOCU Protocol comes seven months after a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) intelligence officer, his wife and a lorry driver were killed in a collision on Carifesta Ave while the officer had been assisting SOCU unofficially in staking out and intercepting suspects that turned out to be the wrong targets.
The Unit is now required to have a crime book and a property book.
The protocol , which was approved by Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan on June 30, 2016, tasks SOCU with “obtaining and using search warrants to aid in investigations,” and “expeditiously identifying, tracing and initiating actions to freeze and seize property that is or may become subjects to confiscation or suspected of being proceeds of crime.”
SOCU has been also given the green-light to use several investigative techniques such as undercover operations, interception of communications, accessing computer system and controlling the delivery/movement of assets.
The protocol requires the SOCU Director, who is an Assistant Commissioner of Police, to “report directly to the Commissioner of Police” and further states that SOCU is responsible to the top cop for investigating all referrals from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and “timely, accurate and effective” investigations of suspected criminal transactions related to financial crimes including money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
SOCU, through the Police Commissioner, is also responsible for collecting, investigating, gathering and use of forensic and other evidence of cases related to money laundering/ terrorist financing and other criminal activities. Those 21 criminal activities include participation in organised criminal group and racketeering, terrorism including terrorist financing, trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, sexual exploitation including sexual exploitation of children, tax evasion, gold smuggling, piracy, forgery, extortion, counterfeiting and piracy of products, counterfeiting currency, fraud, environmental crime, corruption and bribery, illicit arms and ammunition trafficking, drug trafficking, smuggling, robbery or theft,
SOCU is mandated to respond “speedily, accurately and effectively to urgent requests” by the Police Commissioner , Director of Public Prosecutions, Police Legal Adviser, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, Financial Intelligence Unit and other law enforcement agencies and any relevant authorities on matters related to suspected criminal activities and financial crimes. At the same time, SOCU is required to act speedily, accurately and effectively on receiving information, data or compelling evidence of suspected criminal transactions or financial crimes.
According to the document, SOCU must collaborate with the Financial Intelligence Unit, law enforcement agencies, Guyana Revenue Authority, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and other relevant authorities on matters relating to criminal investigations, suspicious financial transactions, money laundering and financing of terrorism and any other related activity. That Unit must keep and safeguard detailed records of all information or data collected or gathered for use by that Unit, the Police Commissioner, Director of Public Prosecutions, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, Guyana Revenue Authority Financial Intelligence Unit, courts or others as may be instructed by the Police Commissioner from time to time.
Recently, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff, who is being investigated for financial crimes, had cause to raise concerns that SOCU appeared to have leaked information to the media. Shariff is on leave pending the outcome of the probe.
SOCU’s responsibilities also include providing reports of Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering of Financing Terrorism risks with Guyana to the relevant parliamentary committee, and compiling statistics and other reports for regional and international Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering of Financing Terrorism standard setting.