The trial of embattled Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Volda Lawrence, and APNU/AFC’s activist Carol Joseph-Smith who are accused of electoral fraud will commence on August 27, 2021, before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
Back in April, the Chief Magistrate ruled in favour of submissions by the prosecution for the charges against the trio to be disposed of summarily. The prosecution has already made full disclosure of statements to the defendants.
The first charge alleged that on March 5, 2020, with intent to defraud, Lawrence and Mingo uttered a report purporting to be a true declaration of all votes cast in District Four for the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, knowing same to be forged.
It is further alleged that on March 13, 2020, Mingo and Joseph uttered a forged document purporting to be a true report of all votes cast in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, knowing that the report was forged. It is also alleged that on the said date, Joseph conspired with Mingo and others to declare a fraudulent count of votes for District Four.
Over the past week, the Guyana Police Force filed an additional charge against Mingo, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, and Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers. The case will be called again on June 29, 2021, before Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
That charge states that between March 2, 2020, and August 2, 2020, at Georgetown, Lowenfield, Mingo, and Myers conspired with each other and together with Lawrence; Smith-Joseph; Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Elections Officer Sherfern February; GECOM’s Information Technology Officer Enrique Livan and GECOM clerks Denise Bobb-Cummings and Michelle Miller, and others, to defraud the electors of Guyana by declaring a false account of votes cast for the Regional Elections of March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Besides this, Lowenfield is facing three counts of misconduct in public office and three counts of forgery concerning the National Elections. Mingo is facing three counts of misconduct in public office. Myers, on the other hand, has been slapped with two charges for misconduct in public office.
In February, Senior Magistrate Leron Daly ruled that a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) will be conducted into the two counts of misconduct in public office against the DCEO to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for the matters to be tried at the High Court in Demerara. The prosecution, at that time, signalled its intention of challenging the Magistrate’s decision in the High Court.
Given the magnitude of the allegations levelled against Mingo, Myers, Lawrence, Joseph, and Lowenfield, their lawyers are of the view that the High Court would be the best forum for the matters. There are also electoral fraud charges against Bob-Cummings, Miller, February, and Livan.
All those charged have been released on monetary bail pending their trial.
Earlier this month, three PPP/C GECOM Commissioners who are all Attorneys-at-Law tabled motions before GECOM’s Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh for the dismissal of Lowenfield and Myers. Justice Singh has since written to both Lowenfield and Myers asking them to provide, in writing, responses to the motion indicating why they should not be dismissed from their substantive posts. They have until June 15 to do so.
Lowenfield’s report claimed that the APNU/AFC coalition garnered 171,825 votes while the PPP/C gained 166,343 votes. How he arrived at those figures is still unknown. The certified results from the recount exercise supervised by GECOM and a high-level team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) pellucidly showed that the PPP/C won with 233,336 votes while the coalition garnered 217,920.
The recount exercise also proved that Mingo heavily inflated the figures in Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting District – in favour of the then caretaker APNU/AFC regime. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, has hired a team of lawyers to prosecute these electoral fraud cases on the State’s behalf.