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Major stumbling block in charging persons who stole state assets- Ramjattan

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.

Government has hit a major stumbling block in proceeding with criminal action against several persons who have been fingered in stealing public funds and other property because some persons have refused to give statements, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan said Friday.

Asked whether in the absence of statements or Witness Protection Programme, charging suspects have been put on the back-burner, he said obviously that was the case.

“You can give a lot of the evidence to an auditor but when it comes to criminal prosecutions, you have to do the written statements and some of these persons who have to give and testify when they known what the investigations are all about have been telling some of the police… that they are scared to death,” he said.

More than GYD$130 million have been spent on at least 45 forensic audits.

Speaking at a news conference held at the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) headquarters, he also cited the absence of a Witness Protection Act to guarantee witnesses their safety during and after court cases.. Steps are being taken to enact such legislation. “Once that stumbling block can be overcome if there is a witness protection plan certainly we are going to go into investigations of all these persons.”

Ramjattan, who is an experienced lawyer, said efforts were being made to persuade “these very vital witnesses who have the cogent, convincing evidence to please talk out” in a statement and then give evidence in court.

The Public Security Minister related that several of the potential witnesses are friends of the suspects. “We are having a multiplicity of reasons why some of them are not coming forward,” he said, although they have previously given factual statements in the forensic audits.

Touching on the rental of a pharmaceutical bond for GYD$12.5 million monthly from Linden Holdings Inc; a company directed by Lawrence “Larry” Singh, the AFC Leader said given the great likelihood that no one would admit to informing Singh about the need for such a storage facility, the best step was to remedy the situation in the public’s interest and redeem the government.

“At this stage we feel that we have gone the gamut in relation to identifying the wrong that was done and what our sub-committee at Cabinet did was to ensure that it sought some remedies ,” he said.

The Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton has already publicly apologised for providing inaccurate information to the National Assembly about monies that have been spent on renting the bond located at 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown.

In deeming the three-year contract for the bond’s rental “undesirable,”  government said Cabinet would renegotiate the contract and search for new facilities in Georgetown to either lease or rent to house the bond.