GBTI challenges Chief Magistrate decision over SOCU bid to access accounts of Guyana World Cup Inc

The Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) has obtained an order from Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, requiring Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan, to show why her decision, allowing the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to receive and inspect records of the accounts of the Guyana World Cup Inc; should not be quashed.

On December 6, 2017, an application was made by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sydney James, with the Guyana World Cup Inc., named a suspect, in relation to money laundering and other Offences, for an order under section 12(1) of the Evidence Act Cap 5:03, for delivery by the bank to SOCU, certified copies of statement(s) of accounts, withdrawal slips, deposit slips, loans and any other credit facilities.

Additionally, the police were requesting the production of applications to facilitate accounts or any transaction; whether approved or not, details of safe deposit boxes current or closed, wire transfers, mortgages, manager’s cheques and details of all signatories to each account of the World Cup Inc., providing specimen signatures for each in hard and soft copy.

The police had also asked for documents of any related business accounts held by the World Cup Inc., jointly, individually or separately, for the period November 1, 2006 to December 31, 2016; all of which they were hoping to get by last Saturday.

According to SOCU, the information is required for the purpose of evidence in the “matter or cause,” regarding the money laundering inquiry.

The bank, however, has argued that it is under no obligation to produce all the documents requested by SOCU, as there exists no legal proceeding, in relation to the Guyana World Cup Inc., and as such, the magistrate could not properly have made the order.

The bank has pointed out that section 21 of the Evidence Act provides that “on the application of any party to cause or matter, a court or judge may order that the party is at liberty to inspect copies of any entries in a banker’s book for any of the purposes of that cause or matter.”

Referencing section 12(1) of the Act, GBTI pointed out further, that a “cause or matter,” refers to an existing legal proceeding, noting that no such proceeding exists, or has been proved in the application by James, in relation to Guyana World Cup Inc.

The bank recognizes that this particular section also grants power to a court or judge to order that the party is at liberty to inspect and take copies of any entries in a “banker’s book,” but not to be supplied with certified copies by the bank.

Section 2 of the Act, defines “banker’s book” as including “any ledger, day book, cash book, account book, and any other book used in the ordinary business of a bank, and any electronic equipment or object on which particulars of any transaction made by the bank are stored .”

It is against this backdrop the bank has advanced that “particulars of any transaction made by the bank” do not include “applications to facilitate accounts, transactions whether approved or not, details of safe deposit boxes current or closed, details of signatories to all bank accounts, details of any suspicious or unusual case, or large transactions.”

As a result, the bank has said that the Magistrate had no right to allow SOCU its request for documents falling outside the category of “entries in a banker’s book;” noting that she had no sworn evidence on the basis of which she could properly have made the order, which it argues is “is unlawful, void and of no legal effect,” as it is ultra vires section 12 of the Act.

In their application, the bank is also seeking a writ of prohibition, barring the magistrate, or anyone acting by or under her authority, from demanding the records being sought by SOCU, unless cause is shown why the writ of prohibition should not be granted.

The case has been adjourned to January 8, 2018.

GBTI is being represented by Ralph Ramkarran SC.

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