SOCU now doing basic Police work – Jagdeo

first_img…probing murders, grievous bodily harm, theft not the Unit’s functionGuyana’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) – a body established with the exclusive mandate to investigate financial crimes under the country’s international treaty obligations – is now made to do regular Police work, including investigating murders, robbery and theft, according to its protocol recently developed by the Public Security Ministry.SOCU was established in 2013 as a law enforcement agency to investigate exclusively, allegations and reports relating to money laundering and terrorism as part of Guyana’s international obligations to strengthen its Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML&CFT) apparatus.However, the Unit’s responsibility has now been expanded to include basic duties being executed by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and based on the approved protocol of the SOCU, apart from investigating referrals from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and suspected criminal transactions relating to financial crimes, including money laundering and financing of terrorism, the body is also tasked with probing non-financial crimes.Among the “specific responsibilities” of SOCU are investigating corruption and bribery, murders, grievous bodily harm, robbery or theft, forgery, piracy, counterfeiting currency, counterfeiting and piracy of products, environmental crimes and gold smuggling.Investigation of many of these crimes, however, is the mandate of the GPF and does not fit within the expected responsibility of SOCU when it was established, based on a recommendation from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF); the regional watchdog body for money laundering and terrorism financing.Armed with a signed copy of the SOCU protocol, Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo told a Thursday afternoon press conference at his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Robb Street headquarters, that this new mandate is ridiculous and with this expanded mandate, not much is left for the rest of the Guyana Police Force to do.Jagdeo urged that the Unit return to its original mandate.“This is a Special Organsied Crime Unit, it can’t do 21 things, it has to go back to its core functions, which was [fighting] money laundering and terrorism. There are other places in the Police Force where they deal with piracy, smuggling, fraud, murder… you have the CID or environmental crimes and counterfeiting of products, that’s not for SOCU,” the Opposition Leader declared.Confusion in the campJagdeo also lamented the seemingly high degree of confusion in President David Granger’s Cabinet over who exactly should be responsible for SOCU.Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, whose Ministry drafted the SOCU protocols, stated in that document that the Unit will report to the Police Commissioner, as well as act on instructions emanating from the top cop.However, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams on Wednesday, hinted at plans to remove the body from under the purview of the Guyana Police Force.Jagdeo weighed in on the confusion, stating that again, its pure absurdity and incompetence in the Government.“This is the nonsense that goes on in the Government, a useless bunch of Ministers. They don’t even know what they are doing… the incompetence is unbelievable,” Jagdeo stated.Delinking of SOCUMeanwhile, the former President also signalled his party’s staunch opposition to the intended delinking of SOCU from the Guyana Police Force, declaring “I don’t support the removal of SOCU from the Police Force.”Jagdeo said while the Police Force may have capricious action time and again it is Government by laws, protocols, regulations and standard operating procedures (SOPs), removing the Unit from under the Police Force can lead to significantly political interference.“When you transfer these powers to bodies that report to Ministers or Office of the President (now Ministry of the Presidency) etc, that’s when it becomes a black hole… you don’t know who they will act and they will be influenced to take political actions against opponents, so we believe the Unit was set up under the Police to support the FIU. That’s what it does, the FIU doesn’t need a policing arm,” the former Head of State said.FATF/CFATF site visitAsked if the now broadened mandate of SOCU could impact Guyana’s exit from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) watch list, when a team from that body and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) conducts an onsite visit here in a matter of weeks, Jagdeo said that the visiting delegations are likely to unearth the many deficiencies in the system, including the fact that the Attorney General “lied” about having a fully functional FIU, despite Government now moving to put the staff of that body in place by mid-September, ahead of the visit.“These people (visiting teams) are going to find a SOCU which was set up to support this (FIU) now doing environmental crime, they will find now that SOCU has been politicised… they will find a lot of deficiencies and they will find a Government that is not serious about going after real cases of money laundering but is more concerned with using the State machinery SARU, SOCU, FIU everybody to come after political opponents, that’s what they will find and we will speak to them about it,” Jagdeo said.SOCU has been under heavy scrutiny from many quarters of society, including rights groups after a botched operation on December 30, 2015, involving a high-speed chase on Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown, which resulted in the deaths of three persons – Guyana Defence Force Sergeant Robert Pyle, his wife Stacy Pyle and the driver of a canter truck Linden Eastman.Sergeant Pyle and a team from SOCU were supposed to be conducting surveillance on the home of former Head of NICIL Winston Brassington at Cowan Street, Kingston, Georgetown, and became engaged in the high-speed chase down Carifesta Avenue with a vehicle occupied by Opposition parliamentarian Charles Ramson Jr, his wife Alana Seebarran and her brother.During that high-speed chase, Pyle slammed into the truck that was travelling in the opposite direction, resulting in the three deaths.The Government has since refused to launch a Commission of Inquiry into the incident, prompting condemnation from politicians and rights groups.last_img read more