GENERAL Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar, was on Thursday sent on administrative leave along with her deputy and the compliance officer.
Ramotar is the daughter of former President Donald Ramotar. The trio have been temporarily relieved of their duties at a time when the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is conducting an investigation into the operations of the board based on a forensic audit report and a simultaneous police investigation into an alleged money-laundering ring.
When contacted on Thursday, Ramotar did not state clearly whether or not she had received the letter. When first approached on the issue, she said if the Guyana Chronicle has received such information, then it must be true, given the fact that the newspaper broke the story even before the matter was brought to her attention.
She subsequently said “I will most likely receive it, if not tomorrow on Monday.”
The Gold Board is also expected to conduct an investigation stemming from the alleged bank fraud charge 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 mandates 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 the 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).
RELEASED ON BAIL
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 today 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 into Rasul’s accounts. It is protocol that banks would normally hold other banks’ cheques until they have been cleared. However, it appears as though this procedure was not followed by GBTI officials.