The move by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to seize jewellery from a goldsmith while he was proceeding to leave the country without reasonable grounds is “nothing more but an abuse and misuse of the provisions” of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act, says attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall.
Nandlall, who is representing the goldsmith Richard Ramjit in Court, stated that they were served for the first time this morning with an Order granted by Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards (In Chambers) dated January 21, 2016 made pursuant to Section 37(2) of the AML/CFT Act Chapter 10:11.
The Order reads as follows: “Upon reading the Ex-Parte Application by way of Affidavit filed herein on the 21st day of January, 2016, and upon hearing the Head of SOCU, on behalf of the Applicant, Seelall Persaud, Commissioner of Police, on behalf of the Guyana Police Force and upon being dissatisfied that this Order is necessary for further investigations. It is ordered that the Commissioner of Police be at liberty to detain gold weighing 19.12 ounces, value estimated at G$3,943,360 seized from the possession of Mr. Richard Ramjit on the 19th day of January, 2016, for a period of not more than 90 days from the date of seizure for the purpose of investigating whether the said gold are the proceeds of criminal activities and/or the subject matter of money laundering.”
Nandlall stated that: “In my humble view, this is nothing more but an abuse and misuse of the provisions of the AML/CFT Act. Ramjit is an ordinary goldsmith who runs a small stall located on Robb Street. He owns the necklace and gold band in question for over 5 years and has worn them numerous times when travelling in and out of the country to the USA.”
“He has never once been questioned before by Customs Officers or indeed anyone else about these pieces of jewellery either at CJIA or JFK International Airport…it is obvious that because the abusive and unlawful actions of the SOCU officer at the airport is now being challenged in the Court, that a case is now being fabricated and concocted, utilizing the vast powers contained in the AML/CFT Act, to justify and defend this misuse of power,” Nandlall noted in a press release this afternoon.
More importantly, he said the law provides for the SOCU Officer to have had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the jewellery has some connection to proceeds of crime or money laundering, in the first place, before he seized it.
“In this case, the SOCU officer has seized first and then proceeds to obtain a Court Order to justify his unlawful detention of my client’s property while he launches investigations to determine whether it was derived from proceeds of crime or money laundering. So he seized without reasonable grounds for suspicion. In other words, they have turned the law upside down. This entire case is a travesty of justice,” Nandlall added.