May 19, 2017 Source
After months of intense investigation, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has charged six persons in connection with allegation of malfeasance at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
The six officials to be brought before the court today are People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Members of Parliament Nigel Dharamlall and Dharamkumar Seeraj; Badrie Persaud, former Managing Director of the Guyana Oil Company; Jagnarine Singh, former General Manager of GRDB; Madanlall Ramraj, former Deputy General Manager of GRDB; and Prema Roopnarine, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Finance, at the Ministry of Agriculture.
According to officials at SOCU the six officials will be charged with failing to make a proper entry into a register of a company.
The Rice Board is the same organization that Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma had said had the most clear instances of skullduggery and that it will be easy for the police to build cases against suspected offenders.
GRDB is the authority charged with overseeing the rice industry throughout the country. Upon entering Government in May 2015, the David Granger-led administration immediately ordered a number of forensic audits to determine the health of the state agencies.
Among them were GRDB, the Guyana Energy Agency and the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL). Billions of dollars passed through these entities’ accounts.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, had disclosed that in all the cases, there were issues in these audits that warranted further investigations into “financial irregularities”.
With regards to the GRDB report, Trotman noted that over a three to four-year period, more than US$500M from the PetroCaribe proceeds (Venezuela rice-for-oil deal) would have passed through the accounts of the entity.
Among some of the “anomalies” found were loans without proper paperwork or promissory notes.
There were other instances of persons in the agency using GRDB money to trade in foreign currency.
The losses for the Government would have been significant, especially if the money was traded for less than it should have been.
The Auditor General and the forensic audit reports have all pointed to severe deficiencies in the manner the monies of the state have been handled by the entities.
When contacted, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that the charges are politically driven. Nandlall said that the only thing he was surprised about is that the charges came so late.
He said from the looks of things and how the government is operating the entire opposition may be charged for something or the other.
The Special Organised Crime Unit had made its intentions clear some time back when it indicated that charges will be laid against a number of officials.
Kaieteur News has learnt that SOCU also wants to speak to a former accountant of the GRDB who is now residing in Canada. It is believed that the man is reluctant to return since he is allegedly fearful for his life.