SOCU fails to defend court case, Magistrate dismisses charges
Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman was left with no choice but to dismiss the charges against former Guyana Rice Development Board (GRBD) executives after citing a number of failures by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) to defend its case.
The case surrounds allegations of fraud leveled against former General Manager, Jagnarine Singh, and his deputy, Madanlall Ramraj, for failing to enter true entries of over $4.2 M into the company’s ledger, knowing that it was contrary to standard operation procedures.
The incidents are said to have occurred between 2011 and 2012, at the company’s Lot 16-17 Cowan Street, Kingston head office.
The duo was facing 16 charges in relation to the matter. Their case which was ongoing before Magistrate Latchman was scheduled for peremptory hearing at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The hearing was scheduled for the continuation of evidence by prosecution witness, Keshwanand Seetaram, for whom an arrest warrant was issued. Seetaram was however not present when the matter was called yesterday.
Special Prosecutors, Hewley Griffith and Lawrence Harris, indicated to the court that they had no other witnesses available and requested adjournment to facilitate the testimony of Special Superintendent of Police attached to SOCU, Sheronie James. James was also not present yesterday.
Given the obvious unpreparedness of SOCU to proceed with the trial, Attorney for the former GRBD officials, Glenn Hanoman, made an application for the prosecution to close their case.
He pointed out that it looks as if SOCU did not know what they were doing.
“They have provided this court with a lot of excuses, piecemeal evidence and have been wasting the court’s time.”
“They claim that Ms James was not available on number of occasions before and I believe the Court has exercised enough patience with this matter. It is time that the prosecution closes its case,” Hanoman said.
SOCU attorney Griffith then told the Court that he was unaware of a number of developments in the case.
“I would prefer to get further directions from the Director of Public Prosecution, (DPP) before making the determination, Your Worship,” Griffith said.
However, Magistrate Latchman told the Attorney that the court has exhausted enough time and resources, waiting on SOCU officers to defend its case.
“This court has wasted enough time waiting on Ms James. Prosecutor, I am ordering you to close your case,” Latchman said.
Griffith hesitated in the face of the Magistrate’s order but he eventually relented.
And since the prosecution had no other witnesses to lead evidence in the matter, Attorney Hanoman presented a no case submission on behalf of the two men.
In the no case submission, Hanoman essentially argued that his clients were not the ones responsible for making accounting records; that no evidence was led in court to establish that the law requires accounting records to be kept only in a general ledger and that the prosecution produced no such document for verification by the Court.
In response, Attorney Hewley Griffith noted that the prosecution has established that the two men’s signatures were on the accounts and that they breached the operating procedures, which formed a basis of the evidence against them.
After considering the submissions of both lawyers, Magistrate ruled in favour of the no- case submission. She dismissed the 16 charges against the two men.
“I have determined that a prima facie case has not been made out against you …In circumstances all the charges against you have been dismissed and you are free to go,” Latchman told the former GRDB managers yesterday.