As government continues to put measures in place to get its State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) up and running, Guyana will be sending a representative to Rome, Italy for an 11-day training programme dealing specifically with this issue, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said yesterday.
Speaking during his weekly post-cabinet press briefing, Harmon told reporters that during Cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday members were informed that given government’s intention to pursue aggressively the activities of the unit, the government of Italy has provided through Caricom Secretariat for named countries including Guyana to partake in the “Illicit economy and financial flows investigations and assets recovery”, training programme. He said the programme which is being fully funded by the government of Italy will be held from July 6 to 17.
Later he informed that Guyana would be represented by a Superintendent of police.
Asked about what the programme will entail, he said that participants will received training on certain mechanisms on how the illicit economy works and how to go about recovering assets. The training will be done at the police training centre in Rome.
Meanwhile, Harmon said the government has been overwhelmed by the level of response from Guyanese living abroad who have volunteered their time and energy to come and work in the area of the state recovery area without pay.
“When you look at their qualification, when you look at what they are doing, now they are prepared to take time off from their work to come and assist us in this regard,” Minister Harmon said.
He said Presidential Advisor Professor Clive Thomas, who had been mandated to spearhead the work of the unit has been in touch with several international agencies and at an appropriate time he would make a statement.
“At a certain point and time the recovery of state assets become a very serious matter so we just want to make sure we release the information on a need to know basis and I would not want to jeopardize any of the work that is being done by that unit by releasing information that can be released at a later date,” Harmon said.
Harmon had said previously that outside of the eight state vehicles that are now at the centre of a police probe many are still missing.
Asked yesterday if any have since been returned, he responded in the negative.
It is believed that the number of missing vehicles exceeds the 28 which were transferred into persons’ names on one particular day in May.
Former Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford is one of five persons embroiled in the transfer of cars. Police have since concluded their investigation and the file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for advice.
Checks by this newspaper yesterday revealed that it was still at the DPP’s chambers.
The names of Westford and four others were listed on a document sent to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) in May requesting that vehicles’ registration be transferred into their names.
There were also accompanying receipts which showed that they had paid cash for the vehicles in questions. It is believed though that the receipts are fakes particularly since they did not look like official government-issued receipts.
Westford has been mum on the issue, but it has been confirmed that police have taken a statement from her. One of the other persons whose name was listed on the document denied any knowledge of it and made it clear that he did not buy any vehicle owned by the ministry, nor did he have knowledge of any request for a transfer of registration into his name.
Margaret Cummings, one of two employees from the Public Service Ministry sent on leave to facilitate the probe, had signed several documents including the one sent to GRA purportedly on behalf of Permanent Secretary Hydar Ally.
Police have managed to obtained statements from the minister and the other persons implicated in the probe.