SOCU interrogates MP, former GRDB officials

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– Nandlall dismisses charges as frivolous, malicious

By Ramona Luthi

Six persons were on Thursday afternoon summoned by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for questioning in relation to the Guyana Rice Development Board’s (GRDB’s) operations during the years 2011 to 2015. They were later charged and bailed for fraudulent omission of records in regard to the lucrative PetroCaribe Fund.

The former GRDB officials making their way to SOCU headquarters, accompanied by their lawyers on Thursday


The six are former GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh; former Deputy GRDB General Manager Rickey Ramraj; Badrie Persaud of the Guyana Oil Company; former Deputy Permanent Secretary (Finance) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Prema Roopnarine; PPP Parliamentarian Nigel Dharamlall; and head of the Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj.
Guyana Times was told that each of these persons had received a telephone call informing them that they were being charged, and instructing that they report to the Special Organised Crime Unit’s (SOCU’s) Headquarters. They were not immediately told of their offence, but after several hours of interrogation by SOCU officials, they were then transported to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to have their fingerprints taken, before being taken to the Brickdam Police Station to be charged and placed on station bail.
They are all expected to be arraigned in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts today, Friday, May 20 2017.
While none of them was allowed a chance to interact with the media, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, representing some of them, explained that the charges “concerned the failure to make certain entries in relation to monies received through a foreign-funded project.”
He described the situation as “harassment”, and advised the affected persons to sue the state for compensation, since, he said, he believes the matter is frivolous and he is certain that no conviction would be made therefrom.
“Public monies have to be better spent! This (that) you’re seeing here is costing the state millions of dollars. This will have to go to court; it will take months in the court and it will never yield a conviction; and a properly advised person charged in these circumstances would be advised to sue the state for compensation, because this is nothing short of malicious prosecution,” Nandlall told media operatives.
The former AG also lamented that there was no evidence to support claims that the six persons had intended to commit fraud by the omission of records.
“There is no evidence that this money was missing; that the money was not spent for the purpose for which it was disbursed. In fact, the money was spent for the purpose for which it was disbursed,” he explained.
Nandlall criticised SOCU for levelling charges against these six persons in regard to the omission of “a ceremonial entry into the record.” He said the accountants should rather have been charged.
“Absolute nonsense! This is absolute harassment! Why is it that [they’re] putting people through this ordeal: damaging their character, putting their family and them through anguish and through suffering just because (they) have the power to do so?” he questioned.
During the early part of 2017, it had been reported that false and misleading statements were being sent to the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela by the former General Manager of the GRDB in order to obtain monies from the PetroCaribe Fund. The fund was established almost a decade ago, when Venezuela introduced an oil sale arrangement wherein Guyana and a number of CARICOM and Latin America countries took oil at concessionary rates, paid a percentage in advance and protracted payment of the balance over a 20-year period. The PetroCaribe Fund was supposed to hold millions of US dollars.
Inconsistencies in this Fund was just one of several financial irregularities highlighted by Nigel Hinds Financial Services in the forensic audit it had done for the period 2011 to 2015.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had noted that, based on the audit report, millions of dollars had passed through the accounting unit of the GRDB. He highlighted that the “glaring” financial irregularities uncovered by the auditors had no “no traceable signs that (they) were ever approved”.