SOCU Deputy resigns after Magistrate requests her qualifications
A British specialist investigator who is second in command of the police’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), has resigned after questions over her qualifications.
Her resignation would raise deep worry over the advancement of several multi-billion-dollar cases being investigated and before the courts, including ones with the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry (GBTI).
According to lawyers attached to the cases, Special Superintendent of Police, Sheronie James, tendered her resignation last week with her date effective February 1.
From indications, James, who is here to assist SOCU, on a loan from the United Kingdom, was in court being questioned about her credentials to give expert testimony.
She reportedly declined.
She reportedly did not tender the qualifications to her seniors at SOCU and to the Ministry of Public Security, when asked to present it.
The matter reportedly came to a head and she tendered her resignation, stating that her qualifications were a matter of national security.
In fact, it was in July last year that the issue of her qualifications was first raised.
SOCU had called James to testify in the contempt trial of several high ranking officials from GBTI.
The case involves Chairman, Robin Stoby S.C; and Directors, Edward A. Beharry, Suresh Beharry, Richard Isava, Carlton James and Basil Mahadeo, along with Chief Executive Officer (ag) Shaleeza Shaw and Kathryn Eytle-McLean.
They all denied the charge, which alleged that on September 7, 2017 at Georgetown, they failed to comply with production order granted by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, for them to produce certain documents to head of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James. As it relates to the trial, James, a Forensic Analyst, was called by SOCU Special Prosecutor Attorney-at-Law Patrice Henry to the witness box. She gave testimony with regard to an investigation at GRDB which led to her uncovering several bank accounts.
The prosecutor had wanted the court to deem James an “expert witness.”
Consequently, the court conducted a Voir Dire (trial within a trial) to determine whether or not the witness could be deemed an expert in the field for which she was being called to give evidence.
However, Chief Magistrate Ann Mc Lennan ruled then, in July, that the court was not satisfied that James is sufficiently/properly qualified to give evidence in the area of Financial Forensic Analysis, and as such, cannot be deemed an expert on the field.
This was although the witness had said that she is the holder of a Masters Degree in Business Administration.
James had also told the court that she worked in 15 countries looking at corrupt organizations and dealing with banks. Taking all these into consideration, the Chief Magistrate ruled that although James possesses these qualifications and experience, she had no tertiary education neither did she publish any writings, in the area of Financial Forensic Analysis.
Allowing her to continue her testimony in the trial, the Chief Magistrate said that James will not be permitted to give opinion evidence.
Lawyers yesterday said that they will be examining other cases where James may have been involved in and which could have been “tainted by her expert testimony. This is serious. Where someone’s qualifications may not be right yet we have people being charged in a high profile manner and before the courts.