Recommendations to improve functioning of SOCU implemented

– James

The recommendations made by Director of The Fraud Company Dr Sam Sittlington to improve the functioning of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) have been implemented.

This is according to SOCU head Sydney James who told Stabroek News recently that Dr Sittlington, a former police investigator and expert on fraud, money laundering and related areas is expected back in Guyana shortly for a follow-up visit.

James explained that this visit most likely will be to check to see whether the recommendations made have been implemented and to assess the progress of the unit. He said it was also expected that during the visit more advice will be given.

He pointed out though that the recommendations regarding staffing was out of the control of the unit and that this issue will be dealt with in the 2017 budget.

The fraud expert spent several weeks in Guyana and worked alongside members of the unit in February this year, providing them with advice and even accompanying them on early morning operations.

SOCU was set up in 2014 by the then PPP/C government to deal primarily with investigating suspected cases of money laundering and the financing of terrorism. It came into focus following a bungled surveillance operation on December 30 last year that ended in a horrific crash, which left three persons dead.

Among the fatalities was army intelligence officer Robert Pyle. His wife, who was travelling with him, was also killed along with truck driver Linden Eastman, who was coming from the opposite direction.

There has been even more scrutiny and questions following several early morning raids conducted by the unit as well as the seizure of gold jewellery at the airport.

Among the ten recommendations made by Dr Sittlington were for increased funding, dogs that are specially trained to sniff out money as is done with drugs and explosives, training of the DPP, Prosecutors, Judges and Magistrates so as to increase the number of successful prosecutions in money laundering, further training on money laundering investigation, enhanced financial intelligence and criminal confiscation, the sharing of information by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the consideration of non-conviction-based asset recovery powers.

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