More than Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan’s questionable reading of an application for a search warrant in open court on Tuesday, questions are being raised about whether the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) may have hoodwinked its way into getting the search warrant.
During a recent press conference, the man at the centre of the controversy, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall posited that there were only two scenarios that could have led to the Chief Magistrate agreeing to grant the warrant.
Noting that there is a conservatory High Court order which prohibits members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and SOCU from searching his premises, Nandlall questioned whether the Unit concealed this fact from the Magistrate.
“I refuse to believe that the Chief Magistrate of Guyana would grant a warrant which collides, head on, with an order of the Chief Justice of the country,” Nandlall said. “So I prefer to give the Chief Magistrate the benefit of the doubt and to contend that (the fact that) the Chief Justice’s order was still valid and in force was deliberately withheld from her.
“This raises fundamental issues concerning law and order in this country. The proceedings in which the High Court order was granted is (part of) proceedings filed against the Attorney General. Those proceedings were adjourned on June 18, 2017 to the 30th August to specifically allow the criminal charge to be heard and determined.”
Stressing that the order restraining the Police and members of SOCU from seizing and detaining the books had been made to continue until the hearing and determination of the proceedings in the court action, he noted that the order was still in force.
“I don’t know what would have happened had SOCU turned up at my residence (and violated) the court order. But the type of intelligence gathering they are doing, they got a search warrant for different premises. So what kind of investigations are these people doing and what are their objectives?”
“This has very little to do with Anil Nandlall,” the former Attorney General said. “When the rights of one person are violated, the rights of everyone are threatened.”
Nandlall has since indicated his intentions to move to the court to have the search warrant quashed.
During a recent interview, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had expressed surprise at the circumstances that led to Nandlall being alerted of an impending raid on his premises. According to Ramjattan, the raid should have been a surprise.
He was, therefore, surprised that the Chief Magistrate read the warrant out loud in open court, thus alerting Nandlall to SOCU’s intentions.
“I do not like to make comments being a former President of the Bar Association for some years, in demeaning terms for any judge or magistrate. We do have our ethics. But I rather thought it was surprising what she did. But she may have gotten good reason to do what she did.
“But it is not generally the way we proceed with the search warrant. A search warrant generally has the element of surprise in it. You do not go and tell the person necessarily. I don’t know that that is how it is done,” Ramjattan posited.
In April, Nandlall was arraigned before Georgetown Magistrate Fabayo Azore on a charge instituted by SOCU, which detailed that between May 15 and May 29, 2015, while being a bailee (custodian), he had fraudulently converted to his own use and benefit 14 Commonwealth Law Reports, valued at $2.3 million — which he allegedly unlawfully retained after demitting office in 2015.
This is despite both Nandlall and former President Donald Ramotar affirming that the subscription for the law books was paid for as a condition of his service as Attorney General. Nandlall’s ownership of the books was also recognised by the High Court when it granted an order prohibiting SOCU from carrying out searches and seizing the law books.
Nandlall had sought and was granted the conservatory order, which restrains SOCU from taking possession of the law books, the day after he was initially questioned by SOCU. The order was granted by Justice Dawn Gregory.
While SOCU had at the time acquired a search warrant for the books, the High Court order spells out that “an interim Conservatory Order be and is hereby granted preventing and/or restraining officers and/or agents from the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and/or the Guyana Police Force of the State of Guyana from seizing and/or detaining the property of the applicant.”