Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2022, 14:54 by Denis Chabrol
People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) activist Carol Smith-Joseph on Wednesday appeared in court for 14 fraud charges because she allegedly “solely” approving transactions totalling GY$6.1 million while she a board director of the Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme (MARDS) Rice Milling Complex Limited.
She appeared before Mahaicony Magistrate, Marissa Mittelholzer with defence lawyers Nigel Hughes and Roysdale Forde. The accused woman was not required to plea and was granted GY$10,000 bail on each charge.
Ms Smith-Joseph, who is the Chief Scrutineer of the parliamentary opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), was told to return to court on January 11, 2023 for statements after which the Preliminary Inquiry would start on June 7, 2023.
At the close of that inquiry, the Magistrate would decide whether there was sufficient evidence for her to face trial by a High Court judge and jury.
Head of the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Assistant Commissioner F. Karimbaksh said in a statement that the charges were instituted against Ms Smith-Joseph after investigators found without authority of the board, she allegedly solely approved fourteen transactions amounting to GY$6,121,108.00 without the Board’s knowledge and approval between 1st June 2016 and August 2016.
“These amounts were used for her personal benefits and other purposes other than that of Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme’s (MARDS) business. These activities were in no way associated with MARDS Rice Milling Complex,” Mr Karimbaksh alleged.
Police said the board makes all the policy decisions of MARDS and the duty to execute Board’s decision is done by MARDS General Manager,” police said.
Ms Smith-Joseph was appointed as a Director of MARDS between the period July 2015 and June 2018 by the then Minister of State of Guyana.
The SOCU Chief said whenever payments have to be made to any suppliers or if MARDS has to do any financial transaction, approval must be given by the Board. Based on the board’s decisions to pay, the General Manager would cause the payment to be processed by his staff and two authorized signatories of MARDS must sign a cheque of payment so that it can be en-cashed at Republic Bank where MARDS has a Bank Account.
The opposition has accused government of targeting Ms Smith-Joseph because a court case has been filed in her name challenging several aspects of the preparations for Local Government Elections that were initially scheduled for March 13, 2022. The Guyana Elections Commission has effectively postponed the polls to a date yet to be determined.