APNU+AFC Chief Scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph was placed on bail today totaling $140,000 when she appeared in the Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court to face 14 fraud charges, related to her previous work at the. Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme.
The West Coast Berbice politician was not required to enter a plea to the indictable charges which were laid by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) on the basis that she allegedly fraudulently appropriated the funds of the Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme (MARDS).
Her appearance in the Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court today before Magistrate Marissa Mittleholzer comes days after the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton called on the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to end its witch hunt against Smith-Joseph and the coalition supporters.
Mr. Norton has accused the Government of politicizing and misusing the country’s security forces to target opposition members and supporters.
“The Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) was established to deal with money laundering and other special crimes. The Opposition believes that the allegations made against Bharrat Jagdeo can be considered special crimes. One would have expected that in keeping with SOCU’s mandate there would have been an investigation into the allegations of bribery and corruption allegedly committed by the Vice President. Clearly, SOCU’s role seems to be to go after innocent people rather than those who are accused of being involved in criminal activity,” the Opposition Leader had said during one of his most rent press conferences.
But according to the Guyana Police Force, SOCU, in charging Smith-Joseph, it was responding to a report which was made in March 2022 by the Mahaica Abary Rice Development Scheme (MARDS) Rice Milling Complex Limited.
It said that Smith-Joseph was accused of fraudulently appropriating the company’s funds in 2016 while serving as a board director. The police said it was against that report that SOCU launched an investigation.
Investigators at SOCU claim that between June 1, 2016 and August 2016, Smith-Joseph approved 14 transactions amounting to $6.1M without the board’s knowledge and approval.
For each of the 14 fraud charges, she was placed on $10,000 bail resulting in a total of $140,000.
Smith-Joseph was represented by Attorney Nigel Hughes and Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde.
The case has been adjourned to January 11, 2023 for statements and June 7, 2023 for the commencement of the Preliminary Inquiry.