Appeal Court overturns conviction, sentence of Deeds Registrar Azeena Baksh
The Appeal Court on Monday overturned the conviction and sentence of Registrar of the Deeds Registry, Azeena Baksh, who was last year was found guilty by City Magistrate Leron Daly of obtaining over $4.5M from the State by false pretence.
Baksh, 37 of Eccles, East Bank Demerara was found guilty of the claim that between May 1, 2014, and January 31, 2017, in Georgetown, she caused or procured valuable securities in the sum of $4.5M to be delivered to her Nova Scotia bank account for her own use pretending she was a contracted employee at the Deeds Registry.
Baksh was ordered to repay the State all of the money she reportedly stole or serve one-year imprisonment.
Dissatisfied, Baksh, through her Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes, approached the appeal court, asking that it reverses, set aside and/or discharge the magistrate’s ruling and enter judgment in her favour.
The ruling was delivered by Justice of Appeal, Dawn Gregory, who allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentencing of Baksh. The state was represented by Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Dionne McCammon.
Justice Gregory ruled that the prosecution did not discharge the duties placed upon it to establish beyond a reasonable doubt all the essential elements of the offence. The court also noted that the inference of an intention to defraud based on the representation was not sufficient on a factual basis. Lastly, Justice Gregory noted that the prosecution failed to lead evidence to prove that Baksh was not entitled to the sum paid.
In April 2017, the Ministry of Legal Affairs had said that staff of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority (DCRA) had called upon it to investigate complaints of alleged financial improprieties committed by Baksh.
Both the Human Resource and Accounting Departments of the DCRA had complained that as Head of the Budget Agency and sole person in authority to approve and sign off the payroll and one of the main signatories of the Authority’s bank account, the acting Registrar allegedly paid herself gratuity, well knowing she was a pensionable employee, having been appointed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).