Lawyers clash over bail, Top Cop ‘interference’

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Assassination claim

…meddling influences public perception, delivery of justice

By Lakhram Bhagirat

Things got a bit heated on Friday when attorneys making their final submissions before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger clashed over the issue of bail and the reported interference of Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud in the investigation.

On March 29, Andriff Gillard reported to the Police that his friend and neighbour, Nizam Khan, had offered him $7 million to assassinate President Granger. He said the offer was made during a conversation he had with Khan after he approached Khan to borrow $6 million to purchase a property.

The investigation into this allegation is still ongoing.

During his submission to the CoI, attorney for the Guyana Police Force (GPF), former Chief Justice Ian Chang, said Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud was executing the functions of his office when he contacted Inspector Prem Narine and suggested that Imran Khan — who was arrested for disorderly behaviour — be released on his own recognizance, and his brother, Nizam, be placed on station bail.

The issue of bail is particularly contentious, since Persaud was on vacation leave at that time, and he is also reputedly a longtime friend of Imran Khan.

Chang said that when the allegation was made, the office of Police Commissioner was not vacant, and Persaud was just exercising his administrative discretionary power.

Chang submitted that although Gillard had several options to report the alleged plot to the Police, he chose to make that allegation some 21 months after the fact, and with there being no one to corroborate his story.

According to Gillard, when he had the conversation with Khan, no one was within earshot. However, Leon Baldeo, one of Gillard’s friends, told the CoI that he was, on March 26th, offered $50,000 to corroborate Gillard’s story by saying he was present when the conversation took place.

Chang told the Commission that had Baldeo gone to the Police then, Gillard would have only had to confirm the allegation without making the report.

Chang submitted that if the report were credible, Gillard would have been detained under Section 316 of the Criminal Law Offences Act, Chapter 8:01, for the offence of Misprision of Treason. Chang said that by making the report some 21 months after the fact, Gillard was exposing himself to that very charge.

“The police did not see it fit to detain Gillard for this offence. Why? The answer is obvious. If Gillard’s report lacked credibility, then there was no treason… If the Police took the view that his story lacked credibility, it was right and proper that both he and Nizam Khan be released,” Chang submitted.

The CoI Act states that no one can testify without taking an oath or making an affirmation, and Chang said Gillard did neither.

Chang said Gillard described himself as a converted Muslim, but both times when he appeared before the Commission, he swore using the Bible instead of the holy Quran.

This very action, Chang said, causes Gillard’s evidence to have no value, and to cause the CoI to have been defrauded.

“Gillard falsely swore on the Bible, which did not bind his conscience….what he stated before this tribunal is therefore of no evidential value. He has committed a fraud on this Commission. His falsities know no bounds or limits,” Chang submitted.

Chang added that the Major Crime Unit of the GPF should be complimented for uncovering the falsity of Gillard’s “mischievous allegations”, and further submitted that the investigations were thorough and uncovered the truth.

Professional discourtesy

Attorney Selwyn Pieters, representing journalist Travis Chase, who had interviewed Gillard following the allegation, argued that Police Commissioner Persaud did not afford Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine the professional courtesy he deserved.

He contended that if Persaud had interfered in an ongoing investigation in any other jurisdiction, he would have been arrested for obstructing justice, because such an approach would affect public perception and the administration of justice.

“The systematic failures in this case are not only an embarrassment, (they) reflect a loss of confidence in law enforcement. It shows that investigations and their efficacy can be influenced by civilians who are connected to the top brass, particularly the Commissioner of Police,” Pieters submitted.

Not diligent

Persaud’s lawyer, Glen Hanoman, submitted that the ToRs presupposes that the GPF was not diligent in its investigation and that there were systemic failures, individual instances of neglect, and that disciplinary action should be taken against the individuals.

He added that the evidence provided does not suggest that there were failures.

“I wish to submit that, irrespective of whether Seelall Persaud or David Ramnarine was on duty as Police Commissioner, or whether Blanhum or Dass was on duty as Crime Chief, the investigations were, and continue to be, diligently and properly conducted. There is evidence, however, as to what may have resulted in the false premise on which this inquiry is based,” Hanoman said.

“The baseless opinions and ill-informed reports by David Ramnarine to the political directorate could evidently result in a perception that something was amiss in the investigation. It is yet to be determined whether those reports were by malice and/or burning desires to ingratiate himself and diminish others for his personal ambitions,” he added.

Attorney Christopher Ram argued that Gillard’s story lacked credibility, and that he should seek psychological help.

The public hearing aspect of the commission ended on Friday, and the commission is expected to submit its report to President Granger on or before August 31. The CoI Commissioner has acknowledged all the submissions and has committed to considering them all.