Guyana Corruption: SARA has identified stolen state assets abroad

SARA has identified stolen state assets abroad – Deputy Director

SARA Director, Dr. Clive Thomas (right) signing the MOU with Director, Matthew Langevine.

The States Assets Recover Agency (SARA) yesterday claimed to be making progress on several cases where state assets have been stolen and exist in Guyana and abroad.

SARA’s Deputy Director, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer, said that while he could not divulge sensitive information to the media, he can confirm that the agency has unearthed the presence of stolen state assets abroad.    

He told reporters on the sidelines of an Anti-Corruption Seminar being hosted by SARA that within another month, the first batch of cases will be taken to the courts.

“We are considering launching both here and aboard. We are not so sure if we will have the ones abroad going forward, but we would like to do so simultaneously,” Heath-Retemyer explained.

SARA has the power to recover illegally acquired state assets from public officers past and present through legal proceedings and in consonance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

The agency has intensified efforts aimed at educating other state agencies and the wider population about its role.

Yesterday, SARA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) that sets out the framework for cooperation between the two agencies.

At the signing ceremony, SARA’s Director, Dr. Clive Thomas said that the agency is collaborating with the Caribbean Institute of Forensic Accounting and FraudNet to recover Guyanese assets held overseas.

“We are working hand-in-hand with them to recover some state assets which we have reason to believe have been unlawfully removed from the state of Guyana and might reside not only in Guyana, but outside of Guyana,” Dr. Thomas stated.

Last month, Thomas told local media that the agency is in the process of reviewing “well over 50 to 60” cases for the recovery of state assets. He had indicated that beginning at the start of the third quarter, the agency is hoping to focus on about 10.

Heath-Retemyer stated that work continues to convert the information received and then advance it to court.

The Deputy Director explained that it must be anticipated that persons charged with misappropriation and theft of state assets usually advance arguments based on the procedural aspect of the acquisition.

He highlighted the need for SARA to gather evidence in a prescribed manner to ensure solid cases with the need to be careful with the type of information divulged to the public, since this may compromise the cases.

“If I should say something in public that can be construed as though we are going after people because of political or other reasons, all these things are taken into consideration when the judge listens to the case,” Heath-Retemyer pointed out.

In terms of statistics, SARA is working with other agencies to determine how many financial crimes were actually committed. It is also working along with the United Nations country representative to craft an Anti-Corruption Policy based on the international body’s list of recommendations.

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