SARA tracking state assets lodged overseas
The State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) is conducting investigations into stolen assets lodged out of Guyana, according to its Deputy Director, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer who revealed that the agency will be moving forward with its first batch of cases next month.
He told reporters on the sidelines of an event this morning that the cases will be filed at both local and foreign courts, however, Heath-Retemyer refused to state the exact number of cases.
“We are not sure if we’ll be able to have the ones abroad going forward simultaneously but we’d like it to,” he told reporters, adding that some of the cases were from information gathered locally and others gathered in partnership with international agencies.
While not going into details, he told the media that “we have found stuff that people do have abroad…it includes assets.”
Noting that the cases have to be strong, the Deputy Director explained that “people don’t generally defend against the things that they stole, they argue on the procedural aspect of it. So if we don’t gather the evidence in a procedural manner…if it can be assumed that we are going after persons for political reasons, all those things are taken into consideration when the judge listen to a case.”
The challenges faced by SARA surrounds the lack of digitalized records and limited resources, the Deputy Head said.
In a letter to the Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, Head of SARA, Professor Clive Thomas had stated that documents received from external Law Enforcement Agencies such as Interpol, Homeland Security and CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) have shown the massive scale of corruption and money laundering during the early 2000s to mid 2010.
The agency, which is mandated to go after corruption, is currently working to determine to what extent SARA has been able to reduce procurement fraud and other practices. Figures, the Deputy Director said will be available during this year.
In the case of corruption in the gold industry, the Deputy Director said Memorandums of Understanding were drafted with a number of local agencies and talks are also ongoing with neighbouring countries to further address the issue.
There have been concerns raised by the opposition that SARA is politically biased given the association of some staff of the agency. However, Heath-Retemyer said he believes that persons can have a preference for any political party and still be able to conduct their duties professionally.