Junior Finance Minister wants to advise on corruption charges; calls for appeal of Jennifer Westford’s GY$600 million larceny charge

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2018, 6:00 by Denis Chabrol

Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma

Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma has criticised police investigators and legal experts for instituting the wrong charge against former Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford and her Administrative Officer, Margaret Cummings who were freed of a GY$600 million charge of larceny by public officer.

Speaking on Saturday’s edition of Voice of the People on his television station, CNSTV6, Sharma urged the Police Commissioner, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Hack and Police Legal Adviser, Retired Justice Claudette Singh to seek his advice before filing such charges.

“The Commissioner of Police, the Police Legal Adviser, to the DPP, to the CID (Criminal Investigations Department) – please be careful, be sensitive and hear, just come to my office, ask me for my advice or where or how we should create that charge and I’m going to say ‘put it that way’ because this is a charge,” he said.

He said Westford and Cummings should not have been charged with 24 counts of larceny by public officer but under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act for the alleged theft of GY$639,420,000 belonging to the Guyana government between 2011 and 2015.

The Junior Finance Minister urged the State to appeal last Friday’s decision by Principal Magistrate, Judy Latchman to dismiss the charge on the basis that Westford was not a public officer in keeping with Guyana’s Constitution. “I hope that this matter is appealed because it is sending the wrong message,” he said.

The State has 14 days within which to file an appeal.

He feared that if the investigators and legal experts do not perform their duties efficiently, the State would not get justice for huge amounts of monies and properties that were allegedly stolen. “We would not be able to do anything because we are putting charges that will be fading in court but this is a disgrace to those investigators- CID, Guyana Police Force, the Commissioner of Police, the Police Legal Adviser and the DPP,” he said.

The Court, nevertheless, found that Westford had collected the monies from Cummings, but there was no evidence that Cummings had spent any. While Cummings’ name appeared on the memoranda, she did not sign.

The majority of the State’s witnesses had testified that did not know of several activities such as training sessions and social activities in the 10 administrative regions for which the monies had been acquired.