Suspected Ponzi scheme: Woman charged for collecting $36M found not guilty


A Berbice Magistrate has found the woman who was charged with obtaining money totalling $283 million by false pretence not guilty on one of several charges slapped against her.

Magistrate Peter Hugh found the woman not guilty and handed down his ruling at the Blairmont Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The court found that while the woman did receive the money, the prosecution failed in its bid to prove her guilty as charged.

Phylicia Jallim, 37, a former NAFICO Branch Manager, of Welcome Street, Rosignol, West Bank Berbice and Thomas Street, Kitty, Georgetown, was charged with obtaining the sum of $39 million from Abdul Rashao.

In finding the woman not guilty, Magistrate Hugh pointed out that Section 124 of the Criminal Law Offence Act, Chapter 81 -5 states that anyone, who by false pretence, obtains from any other person money, which they intend to defraud shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment.

The Act further states that “obtaining by false pretence” refers to fraud or deceit where an individual acquires property or money from another person by misrepresenting the material facts on which the victim relies on in parting with the property or money.

The offence is intended to protect the property rights of the individual by punishing deceptive practices.

The prosecution is required to prove false representation; knowledge of the false claim whereas the defendant knew of its falseness or was reckless as to the truth; intent to deceive; the defendant gained property or money and the victim suffered loss or was exposed to a risk of loss.

In his ruling, the Magistrate said the nature of the false representation is of utmost importance.

He said the false representation must be significant enough to influence the decision of the person being deceived and is intended to cause the victim to act in a way they would not have acted if they knew the truth resulted in a gain for the perpetrator and a loss for the victim.

During the lengthy trial, Abdul told the court that on September 18, 2022, he met Jallim in the presence of a Berbice pastor and she told him that she was lending money to contractors and giving back 10 per cent of the money invested.

He told the court that before he handed over the money, “I asked her if she was sure that she would give the money that she is saying that she is giving.”

The Virtual Complainant said he gave her $15 million and one week after, she returned and handed him $18 million. “She told me that some other contractors needed some money and she would keep the $18 million and give it to them. After I gave her the $18 million, she never gave me back any money,” he said.

Under cross-examination, Abdul told the court that the pastor told him that Jallim was conducting a legal investment business.

Meanwhile, Ramdatt Ramlochan, a businessman and proprietor of Double K Enterprise of Bath Settlement, who the court was told that Jallim was lending the money to, in his testimony, said he knew Jallim from NAFICO Insurance Company, but he never did any business with her and he was not a government contractor and never had any arrangement with her in relation to borrowing or lending money.

When Jallim was required to lead a defence – in an unsworn statement, she said she did not take any money by false pretence. She said that it was the pastor, who organised everything, who had taken the man’s money.

The Magistrate said the court found that Abdul had given Jallim $15 million, $6 million and then another $15 million.

The first $15 million was repaid with a $3 million interest, but Jallim took that sum saying that she was lending it to another contractor.

The last $15 million was given to Jallim after she told Abdul that Ramlochan of Double K Enterprise needed $15 million to borrow.

The Magistrate said the court had to determine which representation Abdul was relying on when handing over the money. Was it that she was lending the money to contractors and giving back 10 per cent, or the statement of the pastor, which is that Jallim was conducting a legal investment business.

The court found that it was the statement of the pastor Abdul was relying on.

Noting that the charge as laid out states ‘with intent to defraud’ obtained the sum of $39 million by falsely pretending that she was in a position to invest it and to deliver a profit, the Magistrate said he was satisfied that the prosecution was able to prove that Jallim did receive the money.

However, Magistrate Hugh said the prosecution failed to prove that Jallim intended to defraud Abdul or that she represented falsely that she was in a position to invest the $39 million and deliver a 10 per cent profit knowing same to be false.

As such, the Magistrate found the woman not guilty of the offence for which she was charged.

Meanwhile, Jallim will be back in court on March 18, when another trial for charges of a similar nature starts. The cases are being prosecuted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).