With the trial involving former accountant of Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Peter Ramcharran winding down, this morning Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan ruled that one of his main witnesses, Leslie Veerasammy is not competent to give evidence as a Chartered Accountant. This was owing to the fact that Veerasammy failed to provide proof of his qualifications to the court, despite given two weeks to do so.
Veerasammy had previously submitted two certificates of his qualifications to the court. However, SOCU Prosecutor Patrice Henry raised serious objections. For one, Henry argued that the qualifications produced by Veerasammy were not sufficient to prove that he is indeed a Chartered Accountant.
The Chief Magistrate, after examining the documents stated, “I am not satisfied, you brought two pieces of documents and the court is not satisfied based on the documents that you’re a Chartered Accountant.”
The Magistrate queried as to where the original certificates were. In responding, Veerasammy said that they were being kept in his safe deposit box at Demerara Bank. According to him, he was too busy to visit the bank for the documents.
Defense attorney Sase Gunraj requested of the court to grant an adjournment so as to facilitate Veerasammy uplifting the documents from the banking institution. The request was however declined by the Chief Magistrate who ordered that the trial will continue with his testimony. Nevertheless, the witness was allowed to give evidence as it relates to the audits he carried out at the GRDB.
Veerasammy told the court that he carried out audits during the period 2011 to2015. However, there was an objection to him tendering the audit reports. The prosecutor objected on the grounds that the audit reports were done by Nizam Ali and Company Chartered Accountant. The basis for the objection was that Veerasammy could only be allowed to tender the documents if he was the author.
Prosecutor Henry added that nowhere in the witness’s police statement did he mention that he was authorized by the Auditor General to conduct audits for Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). The prosecution argued, too, that the witness presented audits that he conducted from 2011 to 2014 which were in no way related to the present charges as they date back to 2015.
Gunraj, in replying to the prosecutor’s objections told the court that the witness is the Managing Director for Nizam Ali and Company and has established the requisite connection between the firm conducting the audits.
The prosecutor then responded that under the Corporate Act, the Corporate Secretary of the company would normally be the one to testify on behalf of the firm giving evidence or even attending court and not the Managing Director.
However, the Magistrate, after reviewing the audit reports and directing a series of questions to the witness, found that he was the author of the documents. The witness was then allowed to tender the audit report for the year 2015.
The matter was adjourned until December 23, when the witness is expected to continue giving evidence.
Ramcharran is facing five charges for the falsification of accounts for which the Chief Magistrate ruled sufficient evidence was found against him. In his defense, he is calling forensic auditor, Nigel Hinds and external auditor, Leslie Veerasammy to testify on his behalf.
Hinds however has not yet been able to testify due to the fact that his qualifications were sent out of the jurisdiction to be assessed.
Ramcharran was slapped with 39 fraud charges for alleged breaches within GRDB.
The Chief Magistrate is dealing with 22 of the matters, while Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus is presiding over the 17 charges of keeping fraudulent accounts.
Ramcharran, 39, of Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara, was charged in March 2019 after being deported from Canada where he was fighting extradition to Guyana for over two years.
Particulars of the first five charges alleged that between the years 2015 and 2011, Ramcharran , while being the accountant of GRDB, failed to enter some $414M in the GRDB ledger.
Ramcharran was slapped with 17 charges which alleged that he, along with former General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Jagnarine Singh and his deputy, Madanlall Ramraj, omitted entries into the company ledger.
The charges alleged that Ramcharran failed to enter true entries of over $4.2M into the company’s ledger, knowing that it was contrary to standard operating procedures between 2011 and 2012, at the company’s Lot 16-17 Cowan Street, Kingston head office.
The last 17 charges alleged that Ramcharran, along with Singh and Ramraj, fraudulently took $5.1M or used the sum for their own use and benefit, or any use and purpose other than that of the GRDB.
According to information, from about 2009 to 2015, Guyana, under the administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, had entered into a multi-billion-dollar oil-for-rice arrangement where GRDB was clearing out for farmers.
However, millions of dollars of those monies were reportedly siphoned off via third-party arrangements, including rental of ships and other sweetheart deals for a few millers