…financial audit cannot affect cases before court – Harmon
The financial irregularities found during the audit of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) are testimony to the fact that, with such a record, SOCU can no longer remain part of the law enforcement arm of the State.
This is according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who has said the credibility of the work that SOCU has done and is currently pursuing has been diminished.
In an interview with Guyana Times on Sunday, Nandlall said the integrity cases that were filed by SOCU in recent times leave much to “wonder about the processes”, in light of alleged findings of fraud in the audit report that has just been concluded.
“A prosecutor is a minister of justice, and his duty is not to seek a conviction, but simply to place before the Court the relevant and admissible evidence. We have had situations where SOCU Prosecutors have refused to hand over to the defence a forensic audit report from which the charge stems which they are prosecuting.
“Prosecutors have a duty to provide such information to the defence, and an accused person has a constitutional right to receive such information as a facility for his defense; and in the Guyana Rice Development Board cases, this facility was denied to the accused persons and their lawyers,” Nandlall said.
According to the former Attorney General, he is one of the persons who assisted in the establishment of SOCU under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration, and he has been one of the victims of that unit’s “malicious prosecution”; but he feels that “the shocking disclosures of corruption, fraud, abuse of power and the rogue conduct on the part of officers of SOCU” warrant that the Unit be disbanded, because it has lost its credibility.
Meanwhile, State Minister Joseph Harmon told this newspaper that he does not believe the financial audit would affect the cases filed by SOCU which are currently before the court.
“I have not seen the report, so I will not be able to comment on it; but I just think that it is a far stretch of imagination to basically try to say that the cases are affected in some way because of that.
“I mean, the cases are brought before the court based on what the Police and the Police Legal Advisor (have recommended), and assuming that there is a case to answer. And so, once they have determined that, I don’t understand how some subsequent finding of a financial transaction within the Unit can in fact make the case before the court itself less credible. I find difficulty in making that connection,” Harmon told this publication.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, told Guyana Times last week that whatever information has to be disclosed about that report would be done via his Public Relations Officer.
According to recent reports, the audit of the financial records of SOCU has uncovered serious irregularities, including the falsification of records, and it has been recommended that there be immediate transfers and a fraud investigation of several of the discrepancies, sources say.
An audit of SOCU, which is a branch of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), was ordered by Police Commissioner Leslie James in February following claims of grave mismanagement, which included the misuse of its operational funds.
The Unit had been engaged in major high-profile probes of former PPP/C Government officials and transgressions at state agencies. The findings of the audit would be seen as a major embarrassment for the current Government.
SOCU has had several of its cases tossed out of the window by the courts, including a number of charges against former Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) executives and Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry (GBTI) directors.
It was reported that during the audit of SOCU, auditors were hampered by the absence of receipts for money being used for unspecified purposes.
There is also said to be evidence of unsigned entries in the financial records, while in one case an official has alleged that their signature was forged.
In light of these revelations of widespread fraud and financial irregularities within SOCU, the People’s Progressive Party is calling for the unit to be closed down.