The Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) says that in areas where the laws may conflict, the bank takes the position that “its primary duty is to protect the interests of its customers” and maintain the confidentiality associated with its fiduciary relationship with them.
In a public statement in today’s Stabroek News, the bank said it appreciates its duty to comply with all orders of the court and “any uncertainty concerning compliance will be a matter for the courts to determine”. It added that GBTI has never refused to supply information emerging from legal requests.
GBTI did not elaborate further but its statement suggests that there is a dispute over whether it should provide requested information and that this is a matter for the courts to settle.
On October 6th, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan said that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) had accused a local commercial bank of failing to hand over important information that is needed for the ongoing Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) probe, although ordered to do so by the court.
He did not identify the bank.
“It was the GRDB [US] $500M account and I understand that a bank got production orders to produce certain documents that could trace where the money has gone and that bank has refused,” Ramjattan told reporters.
SOCU head Sydney James lodged a complaint with Ramjattan as well as Minister of Finance Winston Jordan.
According to Ramjattan, ministers have gotten complaints from SOCU that the bank has not been adhering to the law. He said that that bank has refused and SOCU officials have indicated that “they are being blocked in their investigation as a result of the bank taking certain actions, which are detrimental to the investigation.” He added that the SOCU head did complain to him and he has passed that information on.
“Banks have an obligation that when a judicial officer, a judge, grants a production order… you have to produce, because how else we gonna know where the money go,” he said.
Asked if the bank may be acting within some layer of the constitution, Ramjattan said from the “excuses, it doesn’t appear so.” Ramjattan said that he did not want to say too much publicly about the matter. “One little comment can cause a rush… I have to be careful,” he said, before insisting that SOCU cannot move forward unless that bank adheres to the court order.
The ongoing probe is as a result of a forensic audit into GRDB’s operations. It is made up of 45 smaller investigations – one has resulted in charges being filed and a file pertaining to another was recently sent for advice.
Stabroek News was told that the information that is needed from the bank pertains to a third investigation.