SARU has no prosecuting powers, but operating legally – Trotman

… says ‘Special Prosecuting Unit’ being considered

rotman disagreed with the “interpretation that SARU has no legal mandate”. He pointed out that the Unit is a legitimate department of the Ministry of the Presidency, where salaries are paid and requisitions are made.

“So that gives them legal authority,” the minister stated of the Unit that was established by the Coalition Administration to hunt for assets that initially belonged to the State and are in the possession of persons who are no longer holding public positions.

In so far as having prosecuting authority, the government spokesman admitted that while the Unit is unable to prosecute, it does have the right to investigate and to report its findings, which will be handed over to the relevant enforcement arms of the State – Guyana Police Force and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers – so they can take up the prosecutions.

“There is nothing to suggest, in my view, legally that SARU is without any legal cloak at this point in time. I believe that SARU has been doing its work and passing its findings over to the relevant authorities and that is the correct protocol which is being followed,” he remarked.

Nevertheless, Trotman outlined that steps are being undertaken to have SARU equipped with the relevant enforcement and prosecutorial powers.

However, Leader of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, in a detailed letter last week pointed out there is no need for the unit to be empowered with new legislations to guide its operations, something which his party is completely against.

“The claim that new legislation is required in order to bring charges against persons who are accused of criminal offences with regards to state assets is false. Statutes already exist to bring such charges. However, the new legislation that is being touted appears to relate more to entrenching the SARU as an entity in law with powers overriding the Guyana Police Force, the Audit Office of Guyana and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.” Jagdeo stated.

In this vain, however, Trotman at Thursday’s post Cabinet briefing underscored the importance of having such legislation since entities such the Police Force and the DPP Chambers have their hands filled with their respective responsibilities and may be overwhelmed with the added work that SARU as well as the forensic audits bring.

To this end, he outlined that the issue of a special prosecutors is being considered by government, particularly as it relates to the forensic audits.

“Cabinet is overwhelmed at the scale of the (forensic audits) findings… this brings back the issue of special prosecutors because the Police Force, SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit), and even the DPP Chambers are overwhelmed and lack certain capacities to address all of these,” the minister stated.

In this regard, Trotman disclosed that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan was tasked with holding discussions with Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Basil Williams on the feasibility of a Special Prosecutor’s Office since the service of more than one Counsel may be required in some of the matters.

“The idea of a special prosecutor has in fact been mooted several months ago,” he noted, while adding that it will not be a unit that is established to “witch-hunt” any one as is constantly being cried about.

“We would prefer to have a more studied approach so that these cases, which are of public interest and concern, we have a strong prosecuting team to preside over them,” he remarked, adding that Cabinet is expected to get a feedback from the Public Security Minister within the next fortnight.

So far, SARU, which is headed by economist Dr Clive Thomas, has recommended that the relevant authority consider laying charges against several PPP/C Members of Parliament, including former President Bharrat Jagdeo, over allegations they were all involved in obtaining State lands at an undervalued market price at Pradoville II, East Coast Demerara.

Those named includes: PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee, former Education Minister Priya Manickchand, former Public Service Minister Jennifer Westford, former Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud, and former head of the Guyana Sugar Corporation board, Shaik Baksh.