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Alleged GY$600 million fraud: Defence says no case against former govt minister Jennifer Westford, former Principal Personnel Officer

(Left to right) Margaret Cummings, Dr. Jennifer Westford and their lawyer, Dexter Todd leave the Georgetown Magustrates’ Courthouse on July 31, 2018 after a no-case submission.

Former Public Service Minister, Jennifer Westford and the ministry’s former Principal Personnel Officer, Margaret Cummings should be freed of 24 counts of fraud amounting to GY$600 million, their defence lawyer, Dexter Todd told the court on Tuesday.

In making no-case submissions before Principal Magistrate, Judy Latchman, the lawyer told the court that the charge against Westford was bad in law because constitutionally Westford, as a government minister, was not a public officer from 2011 to 2015. “A minister of government is excluded from this definition of a public officer,” Todd said.

He reasoned that Westford and Cummings were jointly charged but there was no case against the two and moreover Westford should not have been before the court because her charge was bad in law.

He also contended that Cummings could not have been charged with acting in consort with Westford to commit larceny because, in the first instance, the former Public Service Minister should not have been charged.  The lawyer further said the court could not substitute the charge based on the current facts and still hold Westford answerable to a court of law.

He added that there was no evidence that Cummings unlawfully diverted monies signed and accounted for to her own use. “The evidence is that she received monies. There is an inference that monies were in these envelopes,” he said.  “The evidence led by the prosecution does not in any way implicate Cummings in conducting any illegal act,” Todd added.

The Attorney-at-Law said the prosecution also failed to show that anything done by the former Principal Personnel Officer at the Public Service Ministry was a criminal act or that she acted in consort with someone to steal monies and to deprive the government from their use.

Todd said the prosecution did not establish that monies were stolen, Cummings stole GY$10 million, was responsible for that cash, responsible for collecting and counting it and collected it by signature.

Cummings and Westford were charged in February, 2016 with stealing GY$639 million between August 2011 and April 2015 from the Government of Guyana. The money was allegedly stolen in 24 different tranches ranging from GY$3.4M to GY$75M in one instance.

Westford is a Central Committee member of the People’s Progressive Party and one of its parliamentarians.