Deeds Registrar charged over $4.5M fraud

Registrar of Deeds, Azeena Baksh was yesterday faced with a fraud charge for allegedly authorizing payments to herself amounting to a total of just over $4.5 million.

It was alleged that Baksh, being a pensionable employee of the Judicial Service Commission, between May 1, 2014 and January 31, 2017, at Georgetown, with intent to defraud, caused or procured valuable securities in the total sum of $4,534,486, to be credited to her Bank of Nova Scotia Limited account, by falsely pretending that she was a contracted employee of the Deeds and Commercial Registry.

Azeena Baksh

Baksh entered a not guilty plea after the charge was read to her by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in Georgetown.

Prosecutor Arvin Moore told the court that he had no objection to the defendant being granted bail but asked that it be substantial. He further requested that she lodge her passport and report to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) every Friday.

The prosecutor’s requests did not sit well with Baksh’s attorney, Nigel Hughes, who requested that the “faithful public servant” be released on her own recognizance. He noted that no airline would allow an eight months pregnant woman on a flight. He said too that the accused was not required by anyone at CID to lodge her travel documents and would have reported to CID headquarters upon request.

Having heard from both the prosecutor and Hughes, Chief Magistrate McLennan granted the accused her release on $250,000 bail and adjourned the matter to June 6.

The Chambers of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Legal Affairs last month said both the Human Resources and Accounting departments of the registry complained that as head of the budget agency, the sole person in authority to approve and sign off the payroll of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority and one of the main signatories on the authority’s bank account, Baksh had allegedly “unlawfully paid herself gratuity well knowing she was a pensionable  employee having been appointed by the Judicial Service Commission.”

She had also allegedly unlawfully paid herself a higher salary than was approved by the Judicial Service Com-mission.

The statement added that officers also disclosed that the payments started since 2014 and continued up to the present time and amounted to nearly $4.5 million. As a result, the complaints were referred to police.

In a statement released on Baksh’s behalf, attorney Hughes had subsequently said that his client told police that she never had the authority to authorize any payment to herself and all money she has received from her job was in keeping with a Cabinet decision. It said she provided the police with all the documentation and other material to confirm her innocence.

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