The trial of former Ministry of the Presidency Permanent Secretary Omar Shariff and his common-law wife Savitri Hardeo, who are charged with failing to comply with a court order, began yesterday with testimony from two police witnesses, who detailed the seizure of documents for what one of them called a money-laundering probe.
Police Superintendent Brian Vieira and Assistant Superintendent Trevor Reid, who are attached to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), took the stand yesterday when the trial began before Magistrate Fabayo Azore.
Shariff, 46, and Hardeo, 32, both of Dowding Street, Kitty, are charged with failing to comply with a production order issued by acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards. The order had compelled them to produce certain named documents within seven days to Assistant Commissioner of Police Sydney James, who is the head of SOCU, on or before October 14, 2016, at Georgetown.
Vieira, who took to the witness stand first, was led through his evidence-in-chief by Special Prosecutor Patrice Henry. He told the court that on June 30, 2016, he was given a search warrant and certain instructions by James, who directed him to form a search party to go to Shariff’s home in Kitty.
Vieira said that on his arrival there, he met with Hardeo and he explained the reason for his visit to the home—to search for financial records. He noted that several financial documents, which included letters, cheques, two laptops, electronic tablets, external hard drives and two laptop bags, were seized during the search.
Vieira said he informed Shariff’s wife that he intended to take the items to SOCU, while she requested to make a call to her husband, which he allowed her to do. The witness said that while Hardeo was calling her husband, he made contact with James to inform him that the search at Shariff’s home was completed.
Vieira said that James gave him more instructions and as a result he remained at the home with Hardeo and the seized items. The witness added that several minutes later, James and some ranks and Shariff arrived at the house. Vieira said he showed James the box with the seized items they later took into their possession.
Vieira added that on November 4, 2016, while he was alone in the office at SOCU, Shariff came to drop off six cartons of financial records that he said they were for James. Vieira said that apart from the boxes, Shariff also gave him a sealed envelope to give to James. The witness told the court that when James later arrived that day at SOCU, he explained what transpired, and handed over the six boxes along with the sealed envelope.
Meanwhile, Reid testified that on September 2, 2016, he received instructions from James, and as a result he prepared a search warrant and went to the home of Hemwattie Diram Hardeo and Krishnadath Hardeo, at Vergenoegen, West Coast Demerara.
He said Krishnadath Hardeo is the brother of Savitri Hardeo, while Hemwattie Diram Hardeo is an in-law of the woman.
Reid recounted that at the premises he contacted both individuals and indicated to them that he was there to execute a search warrant for electronic and hard copies of documents related to a money-laundering offence between them and Savitri Hardeo. The witness told the court that he read the warrant to the Hardeos and then executed the search in their presence. Reid said at the home in Vergenoegen, he found several documents between Savitri Hardeo and Shariff. The witness told the court that he took possession of the documents and explained to the Hardeos that the documents needed to be analysed. Reid said that he later handed over the documents and laptops to James and a statement of what transpired on that day.
Magistrate Azore deferred the cross-examination of both witnesses until March 23, since attorney Sanjeev Datadin, who is representing Shariff and his wife, was not present for the hearing yesterday.