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GBTI claims victim of “abuse of power” in SOCU probe

GBTI Directors, Suresh Beharry and Attorney-at-Law Robin Stoby.

Hours after Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan threw out a contempt of court case against top executives of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), that financial institution said it was unnecessarily targeted.

“While this unwarranted attack and abuse of power was not without severe and widespread consequences to the sterling institutional image and that of the personal reputation of distinguished directors and staff, GBTI withstood the onslaught with customers rallying around in support,” the bank said in a statement.

The Chief Magistrate upheld a no-case submission and dismissed the case against GBTI Chairman Robin Stoby and directors, Edward Beharry, Suresh Beharry, Richard Isava, Carlton James and Basil Mahadeo, Chief Executive Officer Shaleeza Shaw, and Kathryn Eytle-McLean.

Stemming from a forensic audit into the operations of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), SOCU had asked GBTI to produce records to aid a probe into a US$500 million PetroCaribe oil-for-rice deal with Venezuela. The financial crimes investigators had wanted documents concerning wire transfers to track down the funds to ascertain who might have been recipients.

Chief Executive Officer Shaleeza Shaw, Carlton James and Robin Stoby.

Throughout the trial, the accused denied that on September 7, 2017 they had failed to comply with a production order that had been issued by the High Court on August 29, 2017.

In handing down her decision, McLennan said seven days had been given after the documents had been served to produce the files that SOCU had demanded and that the deadline had been extended on October 20, 2017 to November 3, 2017, and then another extension had been granted on November 7 to take the last date to December 31, 2018.

The Court found that the prosecution failed on several counts to prove its case, but the critical points were that at the time of the complaint there could not have been failure to comply with the production order because the date for compliance had already been extended by the High Court, and that the prosecution failed to tender all of the documents provided to SOCU by GBTI.

The Court ruled that the evidence if taken at the highest level a jury properly directed would not be able to make a conviction.

The bank further charged that a public war of words had “seemed designed to sully the esteemed reputation of the distinguished members of the Board and the financial institution they represent”. According to GBTI, it was grateful that “this malicious attack on its integrity and that of staff has been brought to a predictable end in the Court.”

GBTI thanked all those who supported it “through this traumatic, shameful charade.”

“To the attorneys who distinguished themselves by the highest standards of legal representation possible we are duty bound to publicly congratulate each of you,” the bank said.