…Top Cop only aware of SOCU’s operations after arrests
…business community condemns move
Acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine was not immediately aware of the Tuesday afternoon arrest of several members of the previous Government, among others, by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). The arrests were made just after midday, but around 15:00h Ramnarine said that he was yet to be briefed on
When contacted by Guyana Times about 15:00h, following the arrests of former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon and former President Bharrat Jagdeo, Ramnarine said he had just gotten out of a meeting and would have to be brought up to speed on the matter.
Dr Luncheon and Jagdeo were among several persons detained in connection with SOCU’s investigation into the Pradoville 2 case.
The Top Cop reminded that SOCU fell under the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
The objective of SOCU, which was established under the previous Government, is to support the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in investigating organised crime.
SOCU’s actions against former Government officials come merely one week after Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan announced that charges would be laid against former Ministers of the previous Administration within a week. He had told sections of the media that SOCU having completed investigations into the operations of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), would now be seeking to have members of the previous Administration prosecuted.
Notably, forensic audits, which were conducted by the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) and SOCU, have been used as an intimidation tool against members of the previous Government. SARU is headed by Dr Clive Thomas, who has made several public pronouncements about the need for members of the previous Administration to be criminally charged. Like Thomas, Eric Phillips, who also plays an integral role, has publicly called for such criminal proceedings.
Tuesday’s move was vigorously condemned by members of the business community and civil society. This newspaper was told by an influential Private Sector player that the move by Government, through SOCU, did not augur well for Guyana’s business climate.
Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has maintained that it is ready to strenuously defend any such actions brought against members of its Government.
Only recently, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall had contended that when applying the same logic, the current Cabinet acted unlawfully when its members approved a 50 per cent increase in their salaries.
He was adamant that the price for which the land was sold was similar to, or comparable with, the price at which the Government sold lands under its housing programme to individuals as well as developers at that point in time.
Nandlall had also argued that, applying the same logic, criminal charges should be instituted against Forbes Burnham’s family, who received five acres of prime land east of Sheriff Street, in the vicinity of the Botanical Gardens, given to them by transport by former President Jagdeo.
Nonetheless, Jagdeo has already signalled his intention to file private criminal charges against Government officials on certain matters, including the 50 per cent salary increase situation.
Meanwhile, Nandlall had objected to assertions that the then Government had in fact paid to have removed a National Communications Network (NCN) transmission tower in order to use the land to develop it into a high-end residential area.
He pointed out that the tower was removed long before any work had begun at Pradoville 2.
He highlighted that the tower was removed to facilitate the expansion of the Eugene F Correia International Airport at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.