6 years later: Businessman accused of smuggling gold, falsifying documents freed

Freed: Richard Ramjit

Six years after he was charged with falsifying documents pertinent to a money-laundering investigation and illegally exporting gold, Better Hope, East Coast Demerara (ECD) businessman Richard Ramjit, 42, has been freed after the prosecution failed to prove its case against him.

The goldsmith, whose jewellery was seized at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, East Bank Demerara (EBD), while he was an outgoing passenger, had been charged with knowingly falsifying documents contrary to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act and exporting gold without a licence contrary to the Gold Board Act.

Ramjit, who was represented by Attorney-at-Law Latchmie Rahamat, had been on trial for the offence before Senior Magistrate Leron Daly at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
At the close of the prosecution’s case, Rahamat presented a no-case submission in which she contended that the prosecution had fallen below the threshold of a prima facie case.

Concerning the first charge, the lawyer submitted that there was no evidence that her client had documents that were relevant to any money-laundering investigation being conducted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), no evidence that he had any knowledge of any money-laundering investigation, or that he ever falsified any relevant documents in his possession which were relevant to that probe, or was in possession of any document or falsified any documents.

As it relates to the other charge, she argued that there was no evidence that her client left Guyana with any gold in his possession, no evidence that he exported gold out of Guyana into another jurisdiction since he never left the country, and his jewellery was seized at the airport.

“There is no admissible evidence before the court to show that the jewellery from him that was seized was gold or that it was valued more than US$10,000, and therefore, there is no evidence before the court establishing the essential elements of the offence,” she argued.
Against this backdrop, Rahamat submitted that the prosecution failed to make out a case against her client, and, therefore, urged the court not to call on her client to lead a defence. Magistrate Daly, on Thursday, upheld the no-case submission and dismissed the charges.

The prosecution had contended that on January 19, 2016, at the CJIA, Ramjit had in his possession 19.1 ounces of gold valued at $4.15 million without having an export licence. He was wearing gold jewellery valued in excess of US$10,000 (G$2 million)—the threshold at which seizures can be made under amended anti-money laundering laws if there was no declaration to customs.

Ramjit had filed a lawsuit against the State in which he sought $10 million in damages, a declaration that his arrest was unlawful and a declaration that his fundamental rights and freedoms were breached after SOCU seized his belongings.

Justice Dawn Gregory, however, dismissed the constitutional motion, ruling that SOCU acted lawfully when it seized the items. Ramjit had appealed the Judge’s decision to the Court of Appeal. It is unclear what is the legal status of this matter. This publication understands that Ramjit’s lawyer intends to write SOCU requesting the return of her client’s gold jewellery.

The businessman had been out on $100,000 bail pending the conclusion of his trial.