Goldsmith appeals after court rules that SOCU lawfully seized jewellery

An appeal was filed on Wednesday to challenge the recent ruling by Justice Dawn Gregory that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) acted lawfully when it seized $4M in jewellery from goldsmith Richard Ramjit last year.

The judgment was delivered last Friday on a constitutional motion, which had been filed by Ramjit, who had argued that his fundamental rights and freedoms were breached.

The state was presented by Senior Legal Adviser and Certified Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Prevention Professional Leslyn Noble and state counsel Joan Edghill-Stuart and Tracy Marks, who won the case.

The Notice of Appeal, which identifies Ramjit as the applicant and the Attorney General as the respondent, contends that that the judge erred and misdirected herself in law when she found that the applicant’s jewellery, which was worn on his person, raised reasonable suspicion that he violated the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act.

It was also stated that the judge erred and misdirected herself in law when she found that the applicant’s jewellery raised reasonable suspicion that they were the proceeds of crime.

Richard Ramjit
The seized jewellery

It stated that the judge also erred and misdirected herself in law when she found that there were conflicts in the affidavit evidence but refused and/or failed to take any step to reconcile or address these conflicts.

It was stated that the judge erred and misdirected herself in law when she omitted to attach sufficient or any weight at all to significant pieces of evidence provided by the applicant in his affidavit that were virtually uncontradicted.

Additionally, it was stated that the judge erred and misdirected herself in law when she omitted and/or refused to address the issue that the applicant’s jewellery could only have been lawfully detained in the circumstances pending an investigation or, under an Order of Court, and that from all indications, that investigation was completed and the Order of Court had expired.

It was stated too that the judge erred and misdirected herself in law when she omitted and/or refused to address any of the constitutional violations raised by the Applicant in the Notice of Motion and Affidavit in Support thereof.

The appeal stated that the decision was misconceived, erroneous and wrong in law and is against the weight of the evidence.

According to the Notice of Appeal, Ramjit reserves the right to file additional grounds of appeal when the memorandum of reasons/written judgment of the judge becomes available.

Stabroek News made inquiries about the availability of the written judgement but was told by a senior court official that it was not yet ready.

Ramjit is asking the Guyana Court of Appeal to reverse, set aside, vacate or vary the decision handed down by Justice Gregory.

On January 19, 2016, Ramjit was an outgoing passenger on a Dynamic Airways Flight destined for New York. He was searched by SOCU officers and gold and silver neckwear and a gold and silver wristband, together weighing 19.12 ounces and valued approximately $4M, were found in his possession. He had failed to declare same on his immigration departure card. The gold was seized and detained by SOCU officers for the purpose of investigations and he was subsequently charged with exporting gold without a licence and falsifying a declaration form.

Ramjit, in his constitutional motion, sought damages in excess of $10M and an order directing the return of the jewellery or an order for monetary compensation equal to its value.

In his affidavit in support of the notice of motion, he had said that he is a businessman and a goldsmith and would travel to the United States of America on a regular basis in the course of his business.

He said that he has been the owner of the gold and silver neckwear and wristband for approximately five years and had worn them on numerous occasions when he travelled in and out of Guyana but was never questioned by customs officials.

The jewellery in question remains in the custody of SOCU as it is evidence in the prosecution of the charges filed against Ramjit.

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