-GM, deputy and compliance officer to be sent on leave
THE Ministry of Natural Resources is expected this week to send on administrative leave three top officials of the Guyana Gold Board as part of an ongoing investigation into the operations of that entity.
The Guyana Chronicle was told that the General Manager, Lisaveta Ramotar, daughter of former President Donald Ramotar, her deputy and the compliance officer will all be sent on leave this week. This is as a result of alleged discrepancies unearthed at the ministry and the officers would be required to be off the job to facilitate a full-scale probe.
The Gold Board is also to conduct an investigation stemming from the alleged bank fraud against licensed gold dealer Saddiqi Rafeek Mohamed Rasul and the reported links with personnel at the office. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Natural Resources had said it noted the media reports regarding the charges against Rasul and the alleged links with personnel at the Guyana Gold Board. As a consequence of these reports, the ministry said it will maintain its vigilance over the operations of the Board and will task the incoming directors with the immediate task of probing this and related matters as to whether anyone from the agency acted improperly or outside of their mandate in conducting business with the said licensed gold dealer.
“We have also requested the Guyana Police Force to provide additional information and clarification with a view to aiding the investigation,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it is committed to transparency and accountability within the natural resources sector and will be fully engaged with the authorities in addressing any matter of impropriety in the sector, and in particular, to ensure that the Guyana Gold Board is a credible and reliable institution of State.
Rasul appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates Court two weeks ago charged with six counts of obtaining money by false pretence. Rasul, who owns SSS Minerals Trading Enterprise, appeared before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan and pleaded not guilty to the charge, which alleged that he is involved in a $956M fraud at the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).
Magistrate McLennan ruled against the objections of the prosecutor and released the 34-year-old businessman on $3M bail. The charges alleged that between March 21 and 22, 2017 at Bartica, with intent to defraud, he obtained the sum of $290M, $298M, $138M, $45M, $89M and $96M from the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) by falsely pretending he had cash in his account at Citizens Bank to honour the cheques he encashed.
His lawyer, Sandil Kissoon, explained to the court that his client is being criminalised for the negligence of GBTI, which decided to pay the money without verifying the standard balance of Rasul’s Citizen’s Bank account. In Kissoon’s application for bail, he explained that his client does not pose a flight risk, since he is a prominent businessman in Bartica, who owns several dredges, mining claims and lots.
Police Prosecutor Alvin Moore strongly opposed bail, on the ground that the accused is under investigation for similar offences. According to the prosecutor, the police will soon issue a wanted bulletin for a female manager at GBTI. Prosecutor Moore said that the manager did not follow protocols laid out by the bank when paying out the money. Bail was granted and the case was transferred to the Bartica Magistrates Court for April 21, 2017.
According to officials, Citizens Bank over two weeks ago closed the accounts of Rasul, after noticing several suspicious transactions in his accounts. At the GBTI Bartica branch, cheques drawn on Citizens Bank and totalling over $900M were deposited to Rasul’s accounts. It is protocol that banks would normally hold other banks’ cheques until they are cleared, before making payments against them. However, it appears as though this procedure was not followed by GBTI officials.