Saying that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) needs to focus on “quality investigations”, the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) today said that it is reviewing for the second time a file sent by SOCU on an ongoing controversy with the Guyana Bank for Trade Industry (GBTI) over the release of banking information.
The DPP statement was contained in a letter sent to the Editor of Kaieteur News over a news item in today’s edition headlined `US$500M GBTI contempt charge…3 weeks later, DPP still to pronounce on charges against her lawyer’. SOCU has apparently recommended charges against GBTI officials over the banking information that is being sought.
“SOCU needs to focus on doing quality investigations before sending files to these Chambers for legal advice because charges are based on evidence and not wild recommendations,” the letter from the Chambers said.
There has been an ongoing battle between SOCU and GBTI as the unit seeks to access bank records for the ongoing Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) probe. The bank has balked at the release of the documents.
In an advertisement it placed in the daily newspapers last week, GBTI said that in areas where the laws may conflict it 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.
The DPP’s Chambers commented publicly on the matter for the first time following today’s Kaieteur News story which suggested that it may be lagging on the matter because the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack is being represented by the bank’s Chairman, Robin Stoby SC in another matter.
“The DPP is not facing any major dilemma in this matter. This file will be treated like all other files and advice will be given based on the evidence contained in the file and the relevant law thereto as is done in all files. The DPP has a constitutional mandate under which the work is done at the Office,” the letter said.
The letter said that it was also a lie that the Chambers has had the file for three weeks as alleged in the KN report. It revealed that the first time the SOCU file was received for legal advice was on September 19th and on September 21st it was returned for further investigations to be conducted. The filed was booked out from the Chambers on the said day.
The further investigations as advised by the Chambers was conducted and SOCU returned the file on October 12th for further legal advice and the file is currently engaging the attention of the Chambers, the letter said.
As to SOCU doing quality investigations, the letter said that the unit must obtain the relevant evidence in relation to the ingredients of the offences they are investigating.
“After they have obtained the quality evidence, only then should a credible investigator recommend a charge. Once all the evidence is there to support the offence/offences being investigated, charges are recommended,” the release said.
It pointed out that the Criminal Justice System is receiving assistance from the Governments of Canada and the USA through the Justice Education Society (JES) the focus of which is to ensure that quality investigations are done and completed before charges are instituted.
This will control the backlog that the criminal justice system has been overburdened with for many years and which has resulted in the miscarriage of justice.
It was on October 6th that Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan said SOCU had accused a local commercial bank of failing to hand over important information that was needed for the ongoing GRDB probe although ordered to do so by the court. He did not identify the institution.
“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 had told reporters.
SOCU head Sydney James lodged a complaint with Ramjattan as well as Minister of Finance Winston Jordan.
“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,” the minister said at the time.
He was asked whether the bank might have acted within some layer of the constitution. Ramjattan said from the “excuses, it doesn’t appear so.”
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.
The bank in its advertisement 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.