British Financial Expert Sam Sittlington has taken a swing at the political Opposition for what he said are attempts to demean the work of the controversial Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), which has been making the headlines most recently.
Sittlington, who has been working along with the Unit for over a month, said it is being “kicked about like a political football” and advised that major investments be made in the Unit so that it could put a damper on activities such as drug trafficking, gold smuggling, fraud, cash couriers, tax evasion and other acquisitive crimes.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Sittlington told reporters that SOCU has been doing its best under difficult circumstances.
“They will be successful and I hope that the prosecutions that they are currently working on will be supported by the Judiciary in terms of criminal trial and forfeiture. The comments made can be demoralising for the staff and certainly for Assistant Commissioner [Leslie] James. But you know what; they get on with their job, in a professional manner,” the expert told Journalists.
He said he would have loved for SOCU to respond to some of the comments made in the press, if even to allay the fears of the business community, ‘that legitimate businesses have nothing to fear’. After all money laundering is about money and the conversion and concealing of money from criminal activity.”
According to Sittlington, his stay in Guyana and attachment to SOCU, have so far allowed him to look at the administrative arm of the Unit and advised on systems to aid its smooth running.
He said that his recommendations are to the point and are not meant to downplay the work or role of SOCU or Government in any way but rather they are his honest opinions following his time here. “They (his recommendations) are designed to be constructive to enhance capabilities of all the agencies involved and are delivered by a friend of Guyana.”
Just recently, former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran said the original role of the Unit as merely an investigative arm into money laundering activities has expanded vastly under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration, particularly with no prior public announcement, and that these new mandates appear to be stimulating unnecessary fear within the country.
SOCU was established in 2014 on the recommendation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and was intended to be a Police unit operating under the authority of the Police Commissioner but with a close relationship with the Financial Intelligence Unity (FIU) established under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act, Chapter 10:11 of the Laws of Guyana.