Guyanese family accused of laundering billions for Chinese businesses arrested at airport

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After close to three years of investigation, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) on Wednesday laid 268 charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money of over $4.1 billion against a Herstelling, East Bank Demerara family.

Charged are taxi driver Kenneth Kellawan Ramnarine, his son Damian Brandon Ramnarine and his reputed wife Yevette Nalini Saroop, all of Lot 274 Somerset Court, Herstelling.

In a statement on Wednesday, SOCU said Kenneth and Damian were charged jointly while Saroop, who is alleged to have conspired with them, was charged separately.

Kenneth Ramnarine appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court where he was not required to plea to 41 indictable charges of money laundering.

Damian Ramnarine did not appear in court but his attorney undertook to surrender him soon to SOCU.

The joint money laundering charges against them were laid in contravention of 3 (1) (a) of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act Chapter 10:11 contrary to section 3 (6) (a) (ii) of the said act.

A summary of all the charges read that they knowingly or having reasonable grounds to believe that the cash in question whether, in whole, or in part, directly or indirectly represents proceeds of crime, converted or transferred the cash in question knowing, or having reasons to believe, that the said cash is the proceeds of crime with the aim of concealing or disguising the illicit origin.

Kenneth Ramnarine was remanded until March 6, 2023.

The 134 money laundering charges brought against Saroop were laid in contravention of 3 (1) (d) of the said act. She appeared at the Diamond/Grove Magistrate’s Court where Magistrate  Sunil Scare remanded her to prison until February 9 when she will face more charges.

At the said court, Kenneth appeared before the same Magistrate to answer another 93 counts of money laundering.

According to Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Fazil Karimbaksh, reports reaching his unit indicated that the trio conducted multiple suspicious transactions at several financial institutions in Guyana, raising concerns that they may be involved in money laundering activities.

He based these suspicions primarily on the large number of unsubstantiated cash deposits made via Kenneth’s business accounts of Ken’s Trading Enterprise.

The sources of funds declarations submitted to several commercial banks show that the majority of the deposits are attributed to sales proceeds from biodegradable food boxes sold to local businesses, in particular, Chinese restaurants.

The Head of SOCU claimed that a substantial number of wire transfers, amounting to over $3.7 billion were sent to 22 companies in China under the pretext of importing raw materials to produce bio-degradable products, while other sums were disguised locally totaling over $4.1 billion.

Karimbaksh said his investigators did not find any legitimate source of these funds which the accused wire transferred out of Guyana. The actions of the accused suggested that they may be operating as nominees for some Chinese businesses and also facilitating tax evasion through Ken’s Trading Enterprise, the SOCU statement noted.

His team of investigators, which comprised several senior officers, contacted several prominent businesses in Georgetown, during the course of the investigations which commenced in August 2020.

Those businesses that the accused listed on their source of fund declaration forms reportedly “vehemently denied doing such large transactions with them.”

As a result, SOCU conducted several covert and overt investigations and operations over the period, monitoring the suspects and their lifestyles until enough evidence was collected beyond a reasonable doubt.

Karimbaksh said the suspects attempted to flee the jurisdiction for USA when they were arrested at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on Wednesday.

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