As part of an ongoing assistance package from the United Kingdom to the Government for Guyana in strengthening crime fighting efforts, Financial Investigation Expert, Sam Sittlington has been working along with the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to analyse the scope of its operations.
Sittlington has been in Guyana, working along with SOCU for the past five weeks, advising the unit on systems which will aid in its smooth operation.
Upon concluding his assessment, Sittlington, outlined 10 recommendations. Increase in human resources was among the first set that was outlined during an event at the British High Commissioner’s residence, today.
SOCU’s staff complement comprises its head, four investigators, and one secretary, and three CID investigators seconded to work on the NICIL investigation and help sniff the vast amount of documented results from that case. This does not match the volume of work that has to be undertaken on a daily basis, Sittlington said.
According to Sittlington, SOCU currently manages a total of 285 investigations and 59 of those are live inquiries of which immediate action is required. The remainder are held until further intelligence or other information becomes available. They also service the needs for other agencies.
The financial investigations expert also proposed that the administrators of SOCU should consider adding to its current staff complement, a deputy, additional investigators, legal officer, forensic accountant, administrative staff and analyst. He also explained that the autonomy of the unit needs to be addressed, so as to avoid confusion and instability of the agency.
Sittlington said he is satisfied with SOCU’s operations and is optimistic that those recommendations will be considered.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, has taken note of the recommendations and has committed to working along with the administrators of SOCU to ensure they are enforced.
While the operations of the unit may create some tension, Minister Ramjattan said it is important for persons to understand that its actions are legitimate; hence the Government sought assistance from the British Government.
“It must be appreciated that in the context of what SOCU is to do, and largely it is to ensure that that money launderers and the committers of the financial crimes in the country are brought to justice. It is going to bring tension and unease, there is no doubt about that…But to give the impact as it were of letting the members of the unit be truly professionals and let people appreciate that their activities are legitimate, we have sought the assistance of UK, (and) especially USA and other countries,” Minister Ramjattan explained.
A number of pieces of equipment were also handed over to the public security minister on behalf of the UK government during the event, which is intended to complement the work of SOCU.
SOCU was established in 2013 as one of the recommendations outlined by the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) programme of activities to ensure Guyana’s compliance with international financial obligations.
SOCU is mandated to investigate suspected money laundering crimes and to prosecute persons suspected of terrorism and financial offences. (GINA)