The three policemen charged with stealing millions they retrieved from suspects held for the robbery and murder of gold dealer Dweive Kant Ramdass, were yesterday read a new larceny charge and further remanded when they appeared before Magistrate Fazil Azeez at Vreed-en-Hoop.
It is alleged that on August 20, at Schoonard, West Bank Demerara, Cadet Officer Kevon Denny, 26, of Kitty and police constables Gordon James, 28, of Lot 80 Amelia’s Ward, Linden and Leyland Fraser, 24, of Lot 1602 Kaluri Street, Ituni, all police constables attached to the Leonora Police Station took $5.8M from Shawn Ageda, of which they stole $4.3M from the said Shawn Ageda. The money is said to be the property of Azeem Baksh. The trio pleaded not guilty to the charge of larceny by public officers when it was read to them by the Magistrate.
The men were initially charged with the offence of simple larceny. But the charge was, however, yesterday withdrawn after being reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the new charge of larceny by public officers instituted.
According to attorneys Nigel Hughes and James Bond, who represented the defendants, the first charge of simple larceny was an incorrect charge instituted by the police since for such a charge, the stolen article would have had to have been stolen from the owner of the property in question. Since the items were stolen by someone else, however, the charge was changed to that of larceny by public officers.
Hughes, in his bail applications, told the court that the accused persons were executing their lawful duty on the day in question. He explained that the men were told to intercept bandits who were fleeing from the Essequibo. This, Hughes said, propelled the officers to set up a roadblock at the Leonora Police Station in a bid to apprehend the men.
Hughes also emphasised that the case, which has attracted widespread public attention, is now a very sensitive one. He said that his clients retrieved only $1.5M from the bandits and the sum was lodged at the station. He stressed that at no point did his clients receive $5.8M. “My Worship, bandits fleeing could say that they had any amount of money on them. No one can prove that my client had more than $1.5M in their possession,” he argued. He said also that the men had no antecedents, pose no risk of flight and have been fully cooperative with the police in their investigation. Hughes pleaded with the court also to remember that the granting of bail is only to guarantee that persons return to court and cautioned against the accused persons being treated in a prejudicial manner because of the widespread attention the matter has received thus far.
Hughes said also that considering that the men were police officers, if they were to be denied their pre-trial liberty they should be placed in protective confinement as opposed to being kept with other prisoners since this can result in victimisation and injury to them.
Bond, in his application, asked that the men be viewed without prejudice, adding that his clients should be deemed innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around. He said too that the accused persons have suffered a tarnished reputation ever since their incarceration.
Police Prosecutor Sherwin Matthews, however, objected to the bail application made by the attorneys on the grounds the offence committed is a serious one. Matthews said also that there is a likelihood of the defendants tampering with witnesses. Hughes, however, refuted the point, highlighting that when the three men first appeared, the possibility of witness tampering was never raised.
Despite the arguments put forward by the attorneys, they were unable to secure bail for their clients. The men were subsequently remanded to prison until September 7.
The trio first appeared before Magistrate Priya Beharry on Tuesday last at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court. They appeared along with Constable Jermaine James, 24, of Lot 80 Amelia’s Ward, Linden and his brother Collin James, 24, of Richmond Hill, Linden, who were not required to enter a plea to the indictable charge of supplying the police with false information. They were each granted bail in the sum of $50,000 and ordered to return to court on September 2. Denny, James and Fraser were however denied bail.
On August 24, at the Criminal Investigation Department, Eve Leary, Jermaine and Collin James allegedly gave false information to Detective Inspector Trevor Reid, a Public Officer.
When the men first appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, Prosecutor Denise
Griffith told the court that Cadet Officer Denny was in charge of Constables Gordon and Fraser while on patrol duties on August 20, when they received instructions to throw up a road block in search of the perpetrators of an alleged robbery, involving the sum of $17M.
The prosecutor stated that the ranks responded and apprehended two persons, including Ageda, with a black bag containing $5.8M. However, she said the ranks only lodged $1.5M, claiming that this was the amount found. Griffith said that an investigation was launched but the ranks maintained that they only retrieved $1.5M from the two men. She said that the rest of the cash was not recovered and that investigations are ongoing to find it.
Meanwhile, it is alleged that Jermaine and Collin Jones-brothers of Gordon James-misled Inspector Reid when questioned about the car used to remove the stolen cash. The charges were subsequently laid against the men following advice from the Director of Public Prosecu-tions. The police said Dweive Kant Ramdass, who the $17M was initially stolen from, had the money in 34 parcels made up of $500 bills. The police alleged that the three Coast Guards, who are accused of robbing and killing Ramdass, divided the parcels among themselves and then passed it on to relatives who were later intercepted. Only $12.7M is currently in police custody.
On Monday last, the three Coast Guards, Sherwyn Harte, 26, of Lot 123 Block C Eccles, East Bank Demerara, Delon Gordon, 21, of Lot 108 C Field, Sophia and Deon Greenidge, 20, of Lot 166 Middle Road, La Penitence were charged with the murder of Ramdass between August 20 and August 22 at Caiman Hole, East Bank Essequibo.
Ramdass was on his way to Bartica with the money in a box to conduct business for his employer when he was taken off a boat he was in at Parika by three ranks in a Coast Guard vessel. The vessel left with the man heading in the direction of Bartica and that was the last time he was seen alive.