Trial of former rice board members begins

The trial of the six former Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) members, including two opposition parliamentarians, who are charged with failing to record entries for funds amounting to over $250 million in total in the agency’s general ledger, began yesterday.

On trial are 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 joint charge against the six accused related to the sum of $77,333,199 for the period between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) officer Robert Tyndall gave evidence yesterday before trial magistrate Leron Daley in Georgetown, relating to the court that he arrested the six accused, read them their rights, then read them the charge and would have placed them on station bail.

Subsequent to his testimony, attorney Anil Nandlall, who represents Singh, began cross-examination. During his cross-examination, the attorney asked Tyndall questions in relation to a statement, made by Tyndall, that was served on the defendants. In the statement, he had noted that forensic audit of the GRDB was handed over to the Commissioner of Police by the Ministry of Finance pursuant to a decision made by Cabinet.

Nandlall, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News that when he asked Tyndall about the statement, the prosecutor objected on the grounds that the statement was given to the defendants by mistake,

The attorney noted, however, that Tyndall did admit to making the statement but was unable to recall its contents and requested time.

This statement, according to Nandlall, is a part of the defence’s grounds for stating that the charges are politically-directed. “This disclosure in Mr. Tyndall’s statement vindicates what I have been saying from the inception in respect of these and other charges: that they are politically directed,” he said. “What we are witnessing here is a violent violation of the Separation of Powers Doctrine and rank contamination of the streams of justice by political direction. This is an abuse of the criminal justice system and it is indisputable evidence that the criminal justice system is being abused and manipulated by politicians,” he added.

The matter is expected to continue on October 12.

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