Mingo, Lawrence & Joseph plead not guilty to electoral fraud charges

L-R: Carol Joseph, Volda Lawrence and Clairmont Mingo
L-R: Carol Joseph, Volda Lawrence and Clairmont Mingo

Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan has ruled that the electoral fraud charges against Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Volda Lawrence, embattled Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont, and APNU/AFC’s activist Carol Joseph will be disposed of summarily.

In effect, this means that the matters will be tried in the Magistrates’ Courts. As a result of the Chief Magistrate’s ruling, Lawrence, Mingo, and Joseph have all pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were instructed to return to court on June 11, 2021, for disclosure of statements.

The Chief Magistrate will then set a date to begin their trial.

Previously, their lawyer, Nigel Hughes laid over submissions requesting that the charges against his clients remain indictable. This would have entailed the magistrate conducting a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the trio to stand trial at the High Court.

Lawrence was slapped with two charges of conspiracy to commit fraud at the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections. She was placed on bail. Joseph is charged jointly with Mingo for forgery. They, too, have all been placed on bail.

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 Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers. This was after she upheld submissions by Hughes for the charges to remain indictable.

Before the end of this week, the Prosecution is expected to file a Notice of Motion in the High Court to have the magistrate’s decision overturned.

Myers was not required to plead to the indictable charges which stated that, during the period March 4 and 14, 2020, she wilfully misconducted herself in declaring fraudulent results for the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.

She has been placed on $300,000 bail in relation to both charges. Given the magnitude of the allegations levelled against Mingo, Myers, Lawrence, Joseph, and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, their lawyers are contending that the best forum for the matters is in the High Court.

Lowenfield is facing three counts of forgery and three counts of misconduct in public office. He has been placed on $300,000 bail. There are also electoral fraud charges against GECOM clerks Denise Bob-Cummings and Michelle Miller and GECOM Elections Officer Shefern February and Information Technology Officer Enrique Livan. They, too, have been released on bail.

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) has hired a team of lawyers to prosecute these cases on the State’s behalf.