Omar Shariff to call final witness in trial for failing to comply with High Court order

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Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin (centre), Omar Shariff and his wife

The trial of former Permanent Secretary (PS) of Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff, and his wife, who were charged for failing to comply with a High Court order, has been adjourned to October 16, 2020. When the trial resumes, Shariff, who was called on to lead a defence, will call his final witness.

In 2017, Shariff and his wife, Savitri Hardeo, were charged in relation to failing to comply with a Production Order issued by former Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards. It is alleged that without reasonable cause, the duo of 36 Dowding Street, Kitty, Georgetown, on or after October 14, 2016, failed to comply with the Production Order.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted self-bail.

They are being represented by Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin. It is Datadin’s contention that the Magistrates’ Court has no jurisdiction to hear the case since the order was issued by the High Court. Furthermore, the lawyer is contending that there is no evidence to support there was a breach of the said order, since no documentation to prove same has been produced.

The order was for the defendants to produce certain named documents to former Assistant Commissioner of Police and Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James, no later than seven days after the service of the order. The two apparently did not comply, despite being reminded and written to by SOCU to provide the requested information.

A charge – Failing to Comply with a Production Order – under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, was filed. On June 30, 2016, Shariff was sent on leave by then Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, pending an investigation by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force.

Shariff was being investigated after $500 million could not be accounted for in payment to the Public Service Ministry. Investigators found several large sums passing through bank accounts and launched a separate probe. The matter saw the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) becoming involved as Shariff and his legal team insisted that the monies were from sales of phone credits.

It amounted to billions of dollars passing through his accounts. But Shariff had insisted that the issue was one where taxes were not fully paid and not one of money laundering. In October of 2016, Justice Cummings-Edwards granted a Production Order, which compels individuals or organisations to produce information to help assist in an investigation.
The order was for both the former PS and his wife.