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No political intervention in SOCU probe of former PPP cabinet members- Ramjattan

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 March 2017, 11:44 by Denis Chabrol

Dr. Sam Sittlington outside the Guyana Rice Development Board.

Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan has denied that there has been any political direction in the work of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force.

“I want to here and now state this fact,and believe me it is not an alternative fact … there has been no Government,Ministerial or political intervention whatsoever!,” Ramjattan said.

Addressing Transparency International Institute of Guyana Inc.’s (TIGI) fund-raising dinner, which was kept away from the glare of the media, the minister also shrugged off claims by the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) that there appeared to have been some kind of political collusion or interference because he and Sittlington had been seen at Oasis Café imbibing.

“The fact that I had some wine with Sam on Wednesday evening at Oasis was because I wanted to thank him for the great work he did at SOCU at his farewell function. He left the next day.   I certainly will plead his return to High Commissioner Mr. Greg Quinn,” he said.

Quinn has already said that Sittlington was not engaged in operational activities while working along with SOCU. “Let me clarify the situation. Dr Sittlington is at SOCU in an advisory and training capacity and not in an operational role,” the UK envoy has said. The diplomat rejected suggestions that Sittlington’s comments to the media amounted to operational involvement. “In talking to the media Dr Sittlington was trying to be helpful in explaining the legal basis and rights on which SOCU took the actions they did. It would be wrong to interpret this as Dr Sittlington being involved in the investigations themselves. He was not.

The UK envoy  has also denied claims by former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall that British High Commission staff were also at the Oasis Café with Sittlington and Ramjattan.

Sittlington, a  financial crimes expert , had accompanied Guyanese police during a search and seizure of files from the Guyana Rice Development Board’s office as part of a probe into an alleged multi-million dollar fraud.

The PPP leveled the accusation one day after former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon and the daughter of former President, Donald Ramotar- Lisaveta Ramotar, among other former government officials, had been arrested and questioned in connection with their acquisition of housing lands at Goedverwagting-Sparendaam (Pradoville 2), East Coast Demerara.

The Public Security Minister said government asked Britain to send an expert to SOCU to allay government’s concerns that claims could be made about political interference.  “Government, especially my Ministry, was concerned about the perception of bias and accusation of political motivation concerning those audits sent for police investigation.  It is for this reason assistance was requested from the British High Commission to have an expert in Dr. Sam Sittlington to come in to advise and guide as much as possible the Special Organized Crime Unit.  Of course, the accusations from some of those fingered or called in for questioning will continue unabated, as we have seen,” said Ramjattan, a criminal and civil lawyer by profession.

Ramjattan said the the Forensic Audits total 49, and excepting for 5, namely, the Lotto Fund, CPHA (2), Lethem Power Company, National Sports Commission, and the Demerara Harbour Bridge, all have been completed and the results have so far confirmed these allegations of corruption and maladministration.

Also questioned so far in connection with the allocation of lands at Pradoville 2, either as decision-makers or as beneficiaries, include former government ministers Irfaan Ali, Priya Manickchand and Robert Persaud as well as former directors of the National Communications Network Board, Dr. Nankishore Gopaul and Kwame Mc Coy, as well as the former CEO of Guyana Water Incorporated, Shaikh Baksh.

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March 2017