SOCU advisor says case backlog reducing

Sam Sittlington

In keeping with his concerns about the large number of Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) cases that were awaiting legal advice, Irish crime expert Sam Sittlington last week said that since addressing the issue with the Police Legal Adviser (PLA ) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) the backlog is reducing.

“Very happy to say yes. That process is ongoing…yes quite a few of them (the files) have been returned to us so…yes I am very pleased”, he said when asked by Stabroek News if he had met the duo as he had indicated back in January.

Sittlington has returned to Guyana through assistance from the United Kingdom Government, to continue a project aimed at strengthening the operational and investigative ability of SOCU, with a view to increasing the effectiveness of Guyana and its ability to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious crimes.

At a press conference on January 9 to announce his return to SOCU, Sittlington had told reporters that finding a process to expedite the over 300 cases SOCU was currently working on is high on his agenda as he feels the delays are an injustice to both the people at the centre of the investigations and the police conducting them. It was at this forum that he announced that he planned to meet with PLA, Retired Justice Claudette Singh and DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack to determine the cause of the delays in processing cases.

“There is significant emphasis on the role of SOCU and their successes. They have done a lot of work since I was here last year and many of the cases they have worked on are sitting either with the DPP or the PLA, it seems to me and I have only started back yesterday…I am trying to get the handle on why cases I was looking at last year at this time are still sitting either in the PLA’s office or the DPP’s office,” he had said before pointing out that a possible reason for the lag was that the special prosecutors recruited by the government, the DPP and the PLA all had differing views on the same case and that made it hard for the police to know what aspects needed remedying.

The advisor told this newspaper shortly after the opening ceremony for a financial investigation and anti-corruption training programme had ended that later in the day he had a scheduled meeting with the legal advisors “to run through some of those cases”. He did not identify any of the cases that would be the subject of the planned meeting.

Stabroek News asked Sittlington about the status of the highly publicized `Pradoville 2’ case and he indicated that all he could say at this point is that ‘it is ongoing” and it is currently with the PLA. Over two dozen persons, including former president Bharrat Jagdeo and some of his former ministers were questioned by SOCU officials in the early stages of the investigations.

Previously he had said that the excess workload could not be tackled because of the lack of staff. Last week, Sittlington indicated that this is “slowly being sorted out”. He said that SOCU now had an in-house lawyer and expects several civilian financial investigators to be hired in the near future.

He stressed that at the moment he is still acting in an advisory capacity and is “trying to push through…the cases that they currently have”.

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