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UK not bothered that SOCU’s advisor can be politicized

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 January 2018, 17:25 by Denis Chabrol

Dr. Sam Sittlington outside the Guyana Rice Development Board.

United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn and advisor to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sam Sittlington on Tuesday brushed off concerns that the unit’s work might be seen as politically motivated.

Asked what he thought could be done to avoid his work being discredited and politicised by the opposition, the former UK law enforcement agent said, “I rely on the public to see through any undermining of me. I have a track record. It speaks for itself”.

The UK envoy said it was up to the politicians to make heavy weather of Sittlington’s work in Guyana, but hi rules of engagement do not permit interference. “The terms of reference are very clear as to what he will be doing and there is nothing in there, I think, which will justify claims of his interference, direction or whatever,” Quinn said.  He alluded to the Advisor/ Mentor to SOCU’s earlier remarks in which he said the decisions would be taken by the Police Legal Adviser and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dr. Roger Luncheon (left) being arrested by SOCU agents.

Quinn said Guyanese at large and politicians would have to decide for themselves what Sittlington is doing and why. “All we can do here is to say that he (Sittlington) is here to provide advice, guidance, mentoring to a fundamental part of Guyana’s ability to meet anti-money laundering and countering of financing terrorism activity and everything he is doing us based on addressing that concern and that issue which is something everybody here needs to be interested in because if Guyana is not seen to be addressing AML (anti-money laundering) or CFT (countering of financing terrorism) that has potential significant broader impact to Guyana’s standing globally not just in the financial markets but also as to how other countries around the world see Guyana politically,” he said.

Quinn returned to Guyana this week for a second stint at SOCU that will contractually take him up to March 2020.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo being escorted into SOCU’s headquarters building by the Head of that agency, Assistant Commissioner Sydney James to be questioned about the acquisition of land at Pradoville 2.

Pointing out that he has 30 years experience in tracing dirty money and more than 20 years in probing money laundering, he said the final decision to prosecute rests with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Legal Advisor. “There is an audit trail of money, there is an audit trail of evidence in all of the the cases, Pradoville being no different, so we follow the evidence and it is up to the decision-makers of the PLA (Police Legal Advisor) and DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) to decide whether there is a prosecution,” he said.

The opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has accused the David Granger-led administration of using SOCU to engage on witch-hunt of its political opponents.

Last year, several top PPP officials were arrested by SOCU agents as part of an ongoing probe into the acquisition of seaside housing lands at Goedverwagting- Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara. Those who had been arrested included Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo; former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon and former Housing and Water Minister, Irfan Ali.

Also questioned as part of that probe were owners of housing lands and houses there including Retired Rear Admiral, Gary Best; then General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar; former Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand; former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee; former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud and Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Hack.

A number of former directors of the state-owned Guyana Rice Development Board are currently before the court for alleged financial irregularities stemming from an audit report. Those facing charges include PPP parliamentarians, Nigel Dharamlall and Dharamkumar Seeraj as well as PPP organiser Madanlall Ramraj.

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January 2018