$4.1B money laundering case: Herstelling family charged, refused bail again
A Herstelling, East Bank Demerara (EBD) family of three, facing dozens of money laundering charges have had bail refused again and have been further remanded to prison.
Kenneth Kellawan Ramnarine, a taxi driver; his son Damian Brandon Ramnarine, a salesman; and Kenneth’s reputed wife Yevette Nalini Saroop, a businesswoman, were initially arraigned on February 9, each facing 134 money-laundering charges and were remanded to prison. At their second and third court appearance on March 6 and March 17, respectively, they were remanded.
The father and son are charged jointly, while Saroop, who is alleged to have conspired with them, has been charged separately. The cases have been transferred by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan to Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus for April 18. They are also facing similar charges before Magistrate Sunil Scarce at the Diamond/Golden Grove Magistrates’ Courts.
Having been under the radar of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for some time, the three-person family was arrested at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, as they attempted to flee to the United States of America.
The joint money laundering charges against them have been laid under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act.
A summary of all the charges totalling $4.1B 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 to conceal or disguise the illicit origin, knowing or having reasons to believe that the said cash is the proceeds of crime.
According to SOCU Head, Assistant Police Commissioner Fazil Karimbaksh, reports reaching the law enforcement agency indicate that the trio had conducted multiple suspicious transactions at several financial institutions in Guyana, raising concerns that they may be involved in money laundering activities.
SOCU said its suspicions were primarily honed on the large number of unsubstantiated cash deposits made via Kenneth’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 the proceeds of sales from biodegradable food boxes sold to local businesses, in particular Chinese restaurants, SOCU has disclosed.
Karimbaksh revealed that a substantial number of wire transfers, amounting to over $3.7 billion, were sent to 22 companies in China under the pretext of importing raw materials to produce biodegradable products, while other sums, totalling over $4.1B, were disguised locally.
He pointed out that investigators did not find any legitimate source of these funds which the accused had wire-transferred out of Guyana, adding that their actions suggested that they may be operating as nominees for some Chinese businesses, and were also facilitating tax evasion through Ken’s Trading Enterprise.
Investigators at SOCU, including several senior officers, had contacted several prominent businesses in Georgetown during the investigations, which commenced in August 2020, and the businesses and persons the accused persons listed on their source of funding declaration forms have vehemently denied doing such large transactions with them. As a result, SOCU noted, it conducted several covert and overt investigations and operations over three years, monitoring the family and their lifestyles until enough evidence was collected beyond a reasonable doubt.
SOCU is that unit of the Police Force that is designated with responsibility for ensuring that money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes are fully and thoroughly investigated.
Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act provides for the establishment and management of a Financial Intelligence Unit; provides for unlawful proceeds of all serious offences to be identified, traced, frozen, seized, and forfeited; provides for comprehensive powers for the prosecution of money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes; provides for the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and terrorist property; requires reporting entities to take preventative measures to help combat money laundering and terrorist financing; and provides for civil forfeiture of assets and matters connected therewith. (G1)