6 former GRDB members summoned by SOCU, charged

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-Told to appear in court on Friday after receiving bail

 -Nandlall cites ‘malicious prosecution,’ advises that they sue the state       

By Ramona Luthi

Six former members of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) were on Thursday afternoon summoned for questioning in relation to the board’s operations from the years 2011 and 2015, then later charged and bailed for fraudulent omission of records with regards to the PetroCaribe Fund.

Those arrested were identified as Former GRDB General Manager, Jagnarine Singh,  former Deputy General Manager of the GRDB, Rickey Ramraj, Badrie Persaud; former Deputy Permanent Secretary (Finance) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Prema Roopnarine, PPP Parliamentarian, Nigel Dharamlall and head of the Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj.

Inews was told that each member received a telephone call informing them that they were being charged and that they should report to the Special Organised Crime Unit’s (SOCU) headquarters. However, they were not immediately told of their offence.

After hours of being interrogated by SOCU officials, the six persons were then transported to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to have their fingerprints taken, then to the Brickdam Police Station to be charged and bailed.

They are all expected to be arraigned at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, Friday, May 20 2017.

While none of the members were allowed a chance to interact with the media, Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall- who was also representing some of the former GRDB members- explained that the charge “concerns the failure to make certain entries in relation to monies received through a foreign funded project.”

He described the situation as harassment, and advised the affected person to sue the state for compensations since he believes the matter to be frivolous and is certain that no convictions will be made.

“Public monies have to be better spent. This what you’re seeing here is costing the state millions of dollars. This will have to go to court. It will take months in the court and it will never yield a conviction and a properly advised person charged in these circumstances would be advised to sue the state for compensation because this is nothing short of malicious prosecution,” he told media operatives.

The Former AG also lamented on the fact that there was no evidence to support claims that the six former GRDB members intended to commit fraud by the omission of records.

“There is no evidence that this money was missing, that the money was not spent for the purpose for which it was disbursed. In fact, the money was spent for the purpose which it was disbursed.”

Nandlall criticized SOCU for having the former members of the GRDB board charged for the omission of “a ceremonial entry into the record,” rather than the accountants of the entity.

“Absolute nonsense. This is absolute harassment…Why is it that [they’re] putting people through this ordeal, damaging their character, putting their family and them through anguish and through suffering just because you have the power to do so” he said.

During the early part of 2017, it had been reported that false and misleading statements were being sent to the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela by the former General Manager of the GRDB, in order to obtain monies for the PetroCaribe Fund.

The fund was established almost a decade ago when Venezuela introduced an oil sale arrangement where Guyana and a number of CARICOM and Latin America countries took oil at concessionary rates, paid a percentage in advance and the balance over a 20-year period.

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