Venezuelan soldier further remanded on gun charges

Venezuelan soldier Johnny Ventura Gomez Rivas was yesterday further remanded to prison after the prosecution informed Magistrate Ann McLennan that it was unaware of a diplomatic settlement.

Rivas was remanded to prison on Monday after being arraigned over discharging a loaded firearm and being in possession of an unlicensed gun and ammunition.

His attorney Mark Conaway, in a bail application on Monday, had said that Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Venezuelan government were in talks to have the matter concluded through diplomatic resolve.

The prosecution had however reported to the court that it had no such instructions and was unaware of any such talks.

Rivas was then informed that he would be remanded to prison while yesterday was set for the prosecution to report on the status of the case.

At yesterday’s hearing, Inspector Michael Grant for the prosecution, informed the court that no instructions had been received regarding the contentions advanced by the defence.

Johnny Ventura Gomez Rivas
Johnny Ventura Gomez Rivas

He informed that the prosecution will be proceeding with the charges against the defendant and that it is in possession of all witness statements.

Grant however revealed that advice was yet to be sought from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). When asked, he told the court that the prosecution will be in a state of readiness to have statements served and also fix a trial-commencement date by next week.

Attorney Ganesh Hira who appears in association with Conway, said at yesterday’s hearing that the MoFA was initially under the mistaken belief that the incident had occurred between the defendant and a Guyanese civilian.

He then went on to maintain that the matter is nevertheless being settled “diplomatically.”

According to Hira in an unsuccessful bail-application renewal, the alleged incidents occurred at “Ankoko which is the Venezuelan area in the Cuyuni.”

This prompted Magistrate McLennan to enquire from the attorney if he was “suggesting that Ankoko belongs to Venezuela.”

The lawyer in response said, “Venezuela has a military base there and they exercise jurisdiction over that area.” Venezuela occupies Guyana’s half of Ankoko.

The prosecutor submitted that sometime before the commission of the alleged offences, the defendant was in a Venezuelan vessel which was moored in the area. However, Grant stressed that at the time of the alleged shooting and discovery of the unlicensed gun and ammunition which Rivas had in his possession, he was out of the boat, on the landing; “standing on Guyana’s soil.”

The prosecution maintained its previous objections to bail which was upheld by the court.

Magistrate McLennan told the prosecutor to get advice from the MoFA concerning the territorial issues in the case.

The case has been adjourned to December 15 for statements and fixtures for trial.

The charges against Rivas, 27, are that on December 5, at Eteringbang Landing, Cuyuni, he discharged a loaded firearm at Johangalo Joveira with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or cause grievous bodily harm; and that on the same day and place, he had a Taurus 9 mm pistol and nine matching rounds without licences.

Rivas, through his interpreter, has denied the charges.

He is a sergeant in the Venezuelan military and has been employed for the past seven years.

Conway had said on Monday that his client was on duty in the Eteringbang area at the time of the incident.

When asked by the court whether his client was in Guyana’s waters at the time of the incident, Conway had said he was on duty “in the Venezuela area” and that “there are no markings in these areas.”

Magistrate McLennan had questioned counsel’s contentions saying, “there must be markings” which establish territorial boundaries.

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