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Several Special Organised Crime Unit prospective members fail lie-detector tests

Public Security Minister, Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan speaking with the Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James.

Guyana’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), which is tasked with probing money laundering, is experiencing mixed fortunes in recruiting persons who have not failed lie-detector tests, according to a senior official.

Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Sydney James told Demerara Waves Online News on Saturday that because of a number of fail-grades, the entity is operating with limited staff. “We are under-strength mainly because of a consequence of the recent failures we had but as we continue there will be opportunities for other people to join the Unit once they pass the polygraph test,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

SOCU requires 13 investigators but at the moment it has only five, a situation that has resulted in current staff members having to take on additional tasks. “It is just that we will have to assign more investigation work to maybe one investigator,” said James, a former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer.

James said since its initial start-up, the four police investigators who were identified to work at SOCU have all passed the lie-detector test. Since then, he said efforts to recruit three civilians and one member of the Guyana Police Force in March 2015 were not entirely successful because only one civilian succeeded at the test. “The failures were not really SOCU members. They were prospective members… The three were not allowed to come to SOCU,” he said.

He said whenever members of the Guyana Police Force fail the test, they are sent back to the department from which they have come.  In keeping with a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Kingdom, prospective members of the Unit must subject themselves to lie detector test.

 “It really is a challenge but in the Memorandum of Understanding with the British we are meant to have the Unit as a vetted Unit- vetted means undergoing the polygraph and as a consequence once you fail the polygraph, you either cannot join the Unit or you won’t remain in the Unit,” said James.

Despite its setback in recruiting persons of integrity, SOCU has seized quantities of cash as part of its investigations into money laundering and the alleged acquisition of proceeds of crime.

Back in October 29, 2015, more than US$46,000 and 740 Eastern Caribbean dollars were seized as part of an ongoing court case before the Chief Justice, Ian Chang. Latest figures from SOCU show that at least US$693,000; 150,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars and 140 Euros have been seized.

Nationalities from whom monies have seized are Guyanese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Trinidadians, Americans who have been classified as “currency couriers.” The Anti- Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act (AML/CFT) defines currency as bulk cash, gold, silver, bank drafts, cheques and other negotiable instruments.