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Chief Elections Officer on bail for private criminal charges; lawyers clash on “political” comments in court

Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield was Friday morning granted a total of GYD$450,000 bail on three indictable offences in connection with the March 2, 2020 general election.

He has been charged with misconduct in public office and alleged electoral fraud, and conspiracy to alter results that had been declared in March for that district.

The complainants are Desmond Morean of the People’s Progressive Party and Daniel Josh Kanhai of The New Movement.

Magistrate Faith Mc Gusty put down the matter for August 14, 2020 by which time private prosecutor, Attorney-at-Law Glenn Hanoman is expected to obtain and submit copies of witness statements witnesses.

Mr. Hanoman failed to secure an undertaking by Mr. Lowenfield that he would not destroy evidence such as Statements of Poll and Statements of recount. The lawyer was also unsuccessful in getting substantial cash bail for the Chief Elections Officer although he pointed out that the accused is “propertied” to more than GYD$100 million and earns about GYD$1 million monthly and to lodge his passport. “We have a real fear that he may destroy documents or may interfere with witnesses,” the prosecutor told the court.

Mr. Boston asked the court to discourage Mr. Haboman from burdening the court without evidence. “These are wildcard things,” he added.

Mr. Hanoman informed the court that Attorney-at-Law Neil Boston, who is representing Mr. Lowenfield, would be called as a witness because he had assisted in preparing affidavits in a number of related court cases

Mr. Hanoman said the  cases were very serious and almost treason. He said eventually the matters would be taken over by the Director of Public Prosecutions. “It is close to the charge of treason. He has attempted to thwart democracy,” Hanoman said. “Everything he had done is to try to keep this party in power,” he added.

Defence Lawyer, Nigel Hughes, in response, labelled Mr. Hanoman’s statements  as political and “slanderous”  with the aim of influencing media publications. “To suggest that he will destroy votes or records is a most grievous statement,” Mr. Hughes said. He advised that if Mr. Hanoman has any concerns he could raise them with the Guyana Elections Commission or report them to the police.

Prosecutor Hanoman said “I am not political” but that did not deter Defence Lawyer Boston from accusing him of behaving as if he was addressing a political meeting at Lusignan village, East Coast Demerara or Babu Jhaan, Corentyne- two stomping grounds for the People’s Progressive Party. “These are belonging to the imagination in order to make a political speech,” he said.

Mr. Hanoman said Mr. Lowenfield could not use his office as the basis to obtain bail. “We are saying that he has abused his office so you can’t turn around and use that office to obtain bail,” he said.

Mr. Boston and Mr. Hughes flayed Mr. Hanoman for filing the charges without evidence after he (Mr. Hanoman) asked for a date in September for report and provision of witness Statements to the Defence.

“He is not ready and the court is being used as an instrument for some other purpose other than law,” Mr. Hughes said.

Mr. Boston challenged Mr. Hanoman to file any “sufficient evidence”.  “What he us doing is a shot in the dark and you must put a stop to this unadulterated nonsense,” Mr. Boston told the court.

Mr. Hanoman responded, saying that he was ready to start now with what he has but there were some other formal things he needed to do.

When Mr. Hanomand, along with complainants Morean and Kanhai left the court, about 30 pro-coalition supporters chanted “we want valid votes” and hurled insults at them as they entered the lawyer’s vehicle.

The Chief Elections Officer received a ringing endorsement from the APNU+AFC supporters as he entered a waiting vehicle.