Crime Chief explains delay in Westford alleged fraud matter

Last Updated on Monday, 28 December 2015, 22:58 by Denis Chabrol

The Head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Wendell Blanhum on Monday explained the reason behind the prolonged delay in deciding whether former Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford would be charged with allegedly defrauding government of millions of dollars.

Westford’s then Principal Personnel Officer, Margaret Cummings, is also the subject of the probe that began earlier this year.

Blanhum told reporters that part of the humbug has been the need to interview witnesses a number of times in Guyana’s 10 administrative regions and address conflicting dates in a number of the statements. “It wasn’t anything serious but the problem why it took so long is because we didn’t take statements from persons who were only based in Georgetown. We had to take statements from within the ten regions and to get those persons to come back and give a further statement would have taken some time. That would have been the primary cause for the delay,” he said.

Blanhum related that six of 11 files were due to be sent back to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on Monday and the remainder by weekend.

Some estimates put the amount of money in excess of GYD$600 million.

The DPP is constitutionally required to advise police on whether there is sufficient evidence in serious offences to charge suspects.

The Crime Chief shrugged off suggestions that sections of the public were concerned about the sloth of the probe. “My feedback is that the vast majority of persons are confident in how we have been dealing with these kinds of offences and high profile murders,” he said.

Westford, who is a parliamentarian for the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), and Cummings are hoping to have fraud-related charges linked to the purported sale of several government vehicles be put down indefinitely in the Magistrates’ Court.