Six former Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) members, including two opposition parliamentarians, were yesterday charged with failing to record entries for funds amounting to over $250 million in total in the agency’s general ledger.
Those charged before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in Georgetown were: Jagnarine Singh, former GRDB General Manager; Prema Roopnarine, former Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture; Ricky Ramraj, agricultural consultant; Badrie Persaud, business consultant; Dharamkumar Seeraj, the General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association and a PPP/C MP; and Nigel Dharamlall, also a PPP/C MP.
The charges came a day after they were arrested and questioned by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and the opposition PPP/C yesterday labelled it political victimisation.
The Chief Magistrate read a total of five charges.
The first charge, which was only read to Singh, Roopnarine, Dharamlall, and Ramraj,
stated that between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011, at Lot 116 to 117 Cowan Street, Kingston, being members of the GRDB, a body corporate, with intent to defraud, they omitted or concurred in omitting from the organisation’s general ledger any entries particular to the sum of $52,000,000 in the Republic Bank account for its Agriculture Life Skills programme.
Three other charges of a similar nature were then read to Roopnarine, Persaud, Seeraj
and Ramraj. The first of these three charges related to the sum of $9,724,082 and the period between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013; the second related to the sum of $1,045,000 and the period between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015; and the third related to the sum of $130,000,000 and the period between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014.
All six accused were also read a joint charge relating to the sum of $77,333,199 for the period between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.
None of the six was required to enter a plea to the indictable charges.
SOCU Prosecutor Michael Somersall told the court that he did not wish to have the Administration of Justice Act applied, which would allow the defendants to enter a plea, given the number of statements that have to be served.
He then noted that he had no objection to bail being granted but requested that it be substantial. Somersall further requested that the defendants lodge their passports and report to SOCU headquarters every Monday.
The prosecutor’s requests did not stand well with attorneys Anil Nandlall, who appeared in association with Glenn Hanoman for Singh and Dharamlall, and Priya Manickchand, who represented Ramraj. Nandlall told the court that the important question was why only six persons of a 15-member GRDB were charged.
Both Nandlall and Manickchand said the prosecutor had no right to request the passports of the defendants or that they report to SOCU, since they would have already given all the information they had to officers at the agency’s headquarters on
The attorneys also requested that their clients be released on their own recognisance.
Having heard from the prosecutor and the defence lawyers, Chief Magistrate McLennan set bail for each defendant at $500,000. She also ordered that they lodge their passports and report to SOCU every Monday at 8.30 am.
The proceedings were then adjourned to June 22, when the prosecution is expected to serve statements. (Oliceia Tinnie)