The current cases being investigated by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) will be placed under the spotlight after recent incidents that saw the resignation and sacking of two senior officials.
This is according to SOCU Head, Assistant Police Commissioner Sydney James, who in a brief interview with this media group noted that while the resignation of SOCU Deputy Head Sheronie James could affect some cases, legal advice on the way forward will be sought.
“It might affect ongoing cases and I’ll have to get legal advice on that because as you know if she was giving evidence or had done an investigation and it is before the courts that might be a challenge. But I think the legal people will give us advice.”
In the case of Sheronie James, reports had indicated that she resigned after a local magistrate disqualified her as an expert witness based on her lack of qualifications. The case in question is the contempt trial of officials from the Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry. But she is not the only one.
On Thursday, British High Commissioner Greg Quinn had revealed that SOCU Advisor Sam Sittlington was fired by the United Kingdom Government with immediate effect. It had been revealed that Sittlington, who was on British payroll, set up a private investigative company in Guyana, something the High Commissioner noted, was a potential conflict of interest. When asked, James noted that the revelations came as a surprise to him.
“Dr Sittlington, to the best of my recollection, was doing the work that he was doing. I was surprised that he had registered a company. But maybe only Dr Sittlington can answer why he did what he did,” James related.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that should the People’s Progressive Party win office, the unit will be restructured to focus its investigations on narcotics and money laundering.
During a press conference on Friday, Jagdeo zeroed in on the unit and criticised its focus on former Government officials rather than its original mandate.
“You have to recall who set up SOCU and why. It was the People’s Progressive Party who set up SOCU, under the authority of the Commissioner of Police. And SOCU was set up to support the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) to go after drug dealers and money launderers.”
The parliamentary Opposition has long accused Government of using the unit to target PPP officials, a charge the Government has denied.