Deputy Crime Chief Rishi Dass has admitted that he could not speak on the diligence of the investigation into the alleged presidential assassination plot outside of what he oversaw and that his input in the matter was limited to following the legal advice received.
Dass was on Wednesday recalled for testimony before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged plot and the police force’s handling of the investigation.
During his first appearance, under questioning by Commissioner Paul Slowe, Dass had accepted the suggestion that it was reasonable to assume that proper work was not done during the investigation of the matter.
He had also said that while Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum was on leave, he had had cause to instruct officers to visit the neighbourhood where accuser Andriff Gillard had claimed he was offered $7 million by businessman Nizam Khan to assassinate President David Granger in 2015.
However, Dass admitted that he could not rightly speak on the diligence of the investigation outside of the few days during the investigation that he acted as Crime Chief. Revisiting Dass’ statement, attorney Glenn Hanoman, Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud’s lawyer, asked him whether he was telling the truth in the beginning when he said that the investigation was “diligent,” to which Dass responded yes.
“I have gone through your transcript and I noticed that when you were first called on to pronounce on the quality of the police investigation…that you said, ‘I believe that the action that was taken was diligent. That was when you were first called upon to pronounce on the quality of this investigation. Can you recall saying that? That is before being questioned by Commissioner Slowe and hearing the assumptions and conclusions that Commissioner Slowe gave with regards to the investigation,” Hanoman put to him.
“Mr Hanoman, please, Commissioner Slowe never came to no conclusions. Commissioner Slowe directed questions to the witness and the witness responded,” the commissioner, however, interjected.
“Sir, I am guided by my transcript, but I am seeing here that on this same issue, you suggested to the witness that there’s a reasonable assumption that one month after and so on… and after you put to him this concept of assumptions, I noticed there was a change in his testimony. So that is what I am putting, I don’t mean any disrespect to you, sir. I am looking at the records,” the attorney stated.
Hanoman continued, asking Dass again whether when he first made a pronouncement on the matter whether he believed the actions taken were diligent.
“Yes, in my time,” Dass responded.
Hanoman pointed out that when the question was asked, it was not in response to “his time” but to the entire investigation, to which Dass said that he had only been referring to the few days that he was in charge.
He stated that he could not speak for outside of that time as the officers would not have been reporting to him.
“Do you agree with me that while you acted as crime chief that not a single statement was taken by anyone in this investigation? Do you agree?” Hanoman put to Dass.
“Yes, I’d agree with you,” he replied.
After Dass agreed that all action taken by him was documented in the minutes of the crime file, Hanoman asked: “Do you agree with me that what was in that minute sheet is usually only four words, ‘Please ask for advice’ or ‘Please give me advice,’ nothing else?”
“Yeah that’s true.”
Dass indicated that the advice from the police legal advisor, Justice Claudette Singh, who also appeared before the commission on Wednesday, was for a confrontation to be held. He related that he directed Inspector Singh to have this done in a “speedy manner.”
Hanoman enquired as to what diligent work was done, given their failure to get any witnesses during this period. Dass countered that it was not a failure as efforts were made.
Asked whether he thought the period of investigation before his time was not diligent, Dass pointed out that the officers did not report to him and later agreed that he could not speak about the diligence of the investigation outside of his tenure as Crime Chief.
Questioned on whether he would agree that according to the written record he took no other action other than “seeking advice” and “telling them to follow action,” Dass stated, “According to the sheet, yes.”
“You are aware that your participation in this investigation might be questioned by this investigation and that this commission could take disciplinary action against you? You are aware that this commission is empowered to take disciplinary action against anybody who is found not to be diligent?” Hanoman asked Dass.
Slowe interjected to clarify that the commission can only make recommendations.
The question was then altered and Dass agreed that he was conscious of that fact and responded no when the question of whether he wished for action to be taken against him was put to him.
“So, the way you gave your answers, when you gave your answers to this commission, you had that at the back of your mind—that, look, the way I give my evidence can impact even me and if I am found to be guilty of any negligence, this same commission here could recommend action to be taken against me?”
“Well, yes,” Dass said.
During re-examination by commission attorney James Bond, Dass said that his testimony was in no way motivated by fear or malice, nor were his opinions motivated by malice toward any members of the Guyana Police Force.
Hanoman, during questioning, in reference to an issue involving Blanhum and Assistant Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine about when Blanhum first briefed Ramnarine on the matter, asked Dass about the meeting schedules within the force.
Ramnarine testified that he was briefed by Blanhum at 5.30 am on March 30, and had had to prod Blanhum for information on the alleged plot, after which he was informed that the suspect in the matter, Khan, was released on Blanhum’s instruction.
This was denied by the Crime Chief in a letter sent to the commission on Wednesday.
Asked whether there is a meeting around 8-8.30 am between the superior officers and the investigators on matters arising in the Major Crimes Unit, Dass said that the meeting usually occurs around 9.
Speaking on the protocol when he was crime chief, Dass related, “I would get a report at 6 o’ clock in the morning from the heads and then I will report to the commissioner, acting, or the commissioner that’s there. Then in the morning at 9 o’ clock, there would be a meeting with the heads with the Crime Chief or Deputy, whoever holding.”
“When you have the 9 o’ clock meeting specifically for what is happening from all perspectives in major crimes investigations, when you finish having that meeting, do you report what happens there to the Commissioner of Police?” Hanoman asked.
“In my time, yes, I did,” Dass said, further stating that he would brief the Commissioner on that meeting around 5 in the afternoon.
Also appearing before the commission on Wednesday was Lloyd Adams, who it is reported claimed to have made contact with Gillard after news of the allegation surfaced, and Gillard told him the story was a fabrication. Adams’ testimony was done in-camera.