officers, Customs brokers slapped with initial 72 conspiracy, forgery
Fidelity Investment scam…
A total of 72 charges were read to 13 employees of the Guyana Revenue
Authority and two Customs brokers yesterday when they appeared before
Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson. The charges range from
conspiracy and forgery, in relation to the Fidelity investment scam
Michelle Matthias, Simone Herod, Roopnarine Ramkishun, Karen Bobb-Semple,
Ausya Greenidge, Vickie Sooknanan, Rhonda Gladd, Sadesh Pitamber, Jasoda
Mohamed, Anthony Girdhari, Satish Basdeo, Rabindra Ramsarran and Ann Noel,
and the two Customs brokers, Samantha Sam and Rabindra Rajcoomar, were not
required to plead, since all 72 charges were indictable.
Rabindra Rajcoomar was placed on $600,000 bail, and his colleague,
Samantha Sam was placed on $400,000 bail.
Michelle Matthias was also placed on $600,000 bail while the other GRA
officers were placed on $200,000 bail each.
Sadesh Pitamber, who was only slapped with one charge, was placed on
$95,000 bail. They are expected to return to court on June 24
Rabindra Rajcoomar, 42, of 73 ‘B’ Non Pareil was slapped with fifty
counts of forgery and conspiracy to defraud. He was charged jointly with
Samantha Sam and the Customs officers.
Rajcoomar was also charged separately with 13 counts of forgery of tax
invoices and the forgery of Customs Declaration forms.
The charges allege that between June 22, 2007 and October 19, 2007,
Rajcoomar with the intent to defraud forged tax invoices and Customs
Declaration Forms which purported to show that it was for assorted drinks
when it was for beer.
Rajcoomar and Samantha Sam were jointly charged with eight counts of
forgery. It was alleged that both defendants between September 14, 2007
and December 17, 2007, with the intent to defraud, forged Customs
Declaration Forms and Tax Invoices purporting to show that they were for
Another 13 counts of forgery allege that Samantha Sam and Rabindra
Rajcoomar between October 29, 2007 and November 26, 2007 forged Tax
Invoices and Customs Declaration Forms purporting to show that it was for
Former Customs Officer, Michele Matthias was jointly charged with Samantha
Sam on 17 counts of forgery.
It was alleged that Matthias and Sam forged a quantity of Assessment
Notices, which purported to show that these were prepared by a valuation
officer from the Guyana Revenue Authority Tax Department.
The remainder of the charges was leveled against the 13 Customs officers,
one of whom did not appear in court yesterday.
The Customs officers were also charged with conspiracy.
It was alleged that the officers conspired with person or persons unknown
to be knowing concerned with the fraudulent evasion of the importation of
The GRA officers were also jointly charged with Rabindra Rajcoomar and
Samantha Sam, again for the fraudulent evasion of the importation of Polar
The Customs brokers were represented by attorney-at-law Vic Puran, in
association with Glen Hanoman.
Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes represented seven of the Customs officers.
According to the lawyer, all his clients were placed on station bail and
were reporting to the police station.
He said that only terrible thing about this case is that when it reaches
the preliminary inquiry stage, the matter cannot be reported about. He
said “that the public would never know the actual truth and thus his
clients are still left with the stain”.
The lawyer also stated that a majority of the clients who are charged are
single parents and are now out of a job.
The lawyer also commented on the fact that the state picked a Senior
Counsel to prosecutor the matter. Attorney-at-law Leslie Sobers
represented one of the GRA officers and the others were represented by
attorney Glen Hanoman.
Attorney-at-law Vic Puran made an application, objecting to Senior Counsel
Bernard De Santos as prosecutor.
According to the lawyer, De Santos, who is a past Government Minister and
currently a Member of Parliament on the government side, has strong
Puran said that De Santos also has close ties with the Director of
Fidelity Investments and thus he cannot properly prosecute the matter.
He said that two former Government Ministers are on the Board of Directors
of Fidelity Investments and there are seven other shadow investors who
have strong political backgrounds.
Attorney-at-law Bernard De Santos rebutted Puran’s application on the
ground that it had no legal merit.
“I’m sitting on a government bench in Parliament but I am not a member
of the People’s Progressive Party.
“I have no political baggage, and I reject any grandstanding of the
lawyers who are claiming that,” De Santos posited.
The prosecutor also asked that their passports be lodged since their
lawyers are claiming that they are not flight risks.
“If they are not flight risks, they should lodge their passports.”
He said that scam runs from Customs House straight to John Fernandes
Attorney Nigel Hughes interjected and told the court that the only person
who was to benefit from the scam was the person who owns the beer.
He stated that Fidelity Investment has since collected Value Added Tax on
the “Polar Beer”.
De Santos then stated that a sum of money was given to defendants but they
falsified the documents to show less money. He said that the defendants
kept the remainder and distributed it among themselves.
Following the discovery of the imbroglio where it was alleged that the
company paid duties on soft drinks when in fact it was beer in the
container, President Bharrat Jagdeo ordered a task force that included the
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, to investigate alleged improprieties
between the GRA officers, a broker and Fidelity Investment/Kong Inc.
A report on the investigation was completed and when it was laid in the
National Assembly earlier this year it was found that there was a
recommendation that GRA take the necessary disciplinary action against 15
of its senior staffers, who were all found to have been complicit in the
Wednesday, April 29, 2009