Trio charged with laundering GY$4.1 billion after undercover probe

Last Updated on Thursday, 9 February 2023, 9:27 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Police Force said its Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), on Wednesday laid 268 charges of Money Laundering and conspiracy to launder over $4.1B against a Herstelling, East Bank Demerara family after close to three years of investigation.

Charged are Kenneth Kellawan Ramnarine, a taxi driver, Damian Brandon Ramnarine, a salesman and Yevette Nalini Saroop, a businesswoman, all of Lot 274 Somerset Court, Herstelling, East Bank Demerara. Kenneth Ramnarine and Yevette Saroop are reputed husband and wife, while Damian Ramnarine is Kenneth’s son.

Kenneth and Damian Ramnarine are charged jointly, while Yvette Saroop, who was alleged to have conspired with them, was charged separately. At Georgetown Magistrates Court, Kenneth Ramnarine appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, where he was not required to plea to 41 indictable money laundering charges. Damian Ramnarine did not appear in court, but his attorney undertook to surrender him soon to SOCU.

They were charged with being in violation of 3 (1) (a) of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act Chapter 10:11 contrary to section 3 (6) (a) (ii) of the said act. A summary of all the charges read that they knowingly or having reasonable grounds to believe that the cash in question, whether in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents proceeds of crime, converted or transferred the cash in question knowing or having reasons to believe that the said cash is the proceeds of crime with the aim of concealing or disguising the illicit origin. Kenneth Ramnarine was remanded until March 6, 2023.

The 134 Money Laundering charges against Yevette Naline Saroop were laid in contravention of 3 (1) (d) of the said act. She appeared on Wednesday at the Diamond/Grove Magistrates Court before Magistrate Sunil Scarce, where she was not required to plea to the indictable charges.

She was also remanded to prison. A summary of all the charges read that she conspired with Kenneth and Damian Ramnarine to convert or transfer the cash in question, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the cash in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents proceeds of crime, with the aim of concealing or disguising the illicit origin. She was remanded to prison, and further charges are slated to be read today (Thursday).

At the said court, Kenneth Ramnarine appeared before the same Magistrate to answer another 93 Counts of Money Laundering Charges. The charges were laid under the same section, and he was not required to plea. He was remanded and is slated to answer more charges of a similar nature today.

According to the Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Fazil Karimbaksh, reports reaching his Unit indicated that the trio conducted multiple suspicious transactions at several financial institutions in Guyana, raising concerns that they may be involved in money laundering activities. He based these suspicions primarily on the large number of unsubstantiated cash deposits made via Kenneth Ramnarine’s business accounts of Ken’s Trading Enterprise.

The sources of funds declarations submitted to several commercial banks show that most of the deposits are attributed to sales proceeds from biodegradable food boxes sold to local businesses, particularly Chinese restaurants.

The Head of SOCU claimed that a substantial number of wire transfers, amounting to over $3.7 Billion (Guyana currency) were sent to twenty-two (22) companies in China under the pretext of importing raw materials to produce bio-degradable products, while other sums were disguised locally totalling over $4.1 Billion dollars.

Mr Karimbaksh said his investigators did not find any legitimate source of these funds, which the accused wire transferred out of Guyana. The accused’s actions suggested that they may be operating as nominees for some Chinese businesses and also facilitating tax evasion through Ken’s Trading Enterprise. His team of investigators, which comprised several senior officers, contacted several prominent businesses in Georgetown during the course of the investigations, which commenced in August 2020, whom the accused listed on their source of fund declaration forms, and these businesses vehemently denied doing such large transactions with them.

As a result, the Special Organised Crime Unit conducted several covert and overt investigations and operations, monitoring the suspects and their lifestyles until enough evidence was collected beyond a reasonable doubt. Then they were eventually charged.

Mr Karimbaksh said the suspects attempted to flee the jurisdiction for the United States on Tuesday when they were arrested at CJIA.