… defendant to know fate on MondayDhanpaul Singh of Helena Number Two, Mahaica, East Coast Demerara, also called “Tailor Man”, who is currently on trial before Justice Jo-Ann Barlow and a mixed 12-member jury for allegedly murdering a Mahaica farmer, is scheduled to know his fate on Monday when the jury will deliver their verdict. The trial commenced on Wednesday and both the prosecution and defence closed their cases on Friday.The murder charge for which Singh is on trial reads that on September 2, 2014, at Helena Number Two, he murdered Balkissoon, also known as “Balkay”. The defendant is being represented by Attorney Madan Kissoon while the State is being represented by Attorneys Siand Dhurjon and Shawnette Austin.Murdered: Balkissoon, also known as “Balkay”During the Preliminary Inquiry at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court, it was revealed that Singh, a known drug addict, reportedly confessed to chopping the 52-year-old farmer of Lot 107 Helena Number Two to his neck.The man succumbed to his injuries shortly after the incident. Investigators thought that it was premeditated murder, since earlier in the day, the farmer warned the suspect to leave his premises. Singh reportedly left but staked out the man’s farm.Balkissoon later reportedly left for lunch and it was while he was on his way back to the farm, he was attacked and killed. Moments before the chopping incident, the suspect was also chased from another farm. On Thursday, two Police witnesses gave their testimonies at the High Court, but it was on Thursday that the key witness testified to seeing the entire ordeal.Satesh Ramdhani, a friend of the victim’s son, related that on the day of the incident, he was on the farm where the chopping incident took place. He gave a detailed account of what transpired. Additionally, the dead man’s sons, Ravi and Hemchand Balkissoon gave testimony along with three Police Witnesses.On Thursday, the defence presented and closed their case. The defendant, in his statement said “He fire a chop on me and I fire one back on he,” while maintain that it was done in self defence. Attorney Madan Kissoon, in his closing address to the jury pointed out several inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies. He suggested that the dead man’s sons and the eyewitness corroborated their stories so as to exact revenge on the defendant. He also stated that his client acted in self defence after he was attacked by Balkissoon.However, Prosecutor Dhurjon refuted this, saying that the Defence Counsel was pointing out these alleged inconsistencies to distract the jury from the heart of the matter; that is, Singh brutally murdered Balkissoon.He reflected to the defendant’s statement where he said he and Balkissoon never had any disputes or altercation, but that on that day he was acting in self defence after the now dead man attacked him. He urged the Jury to analyse the case as well as the evidence properly before coming to a conclusion.The matter will be summed up on Monday morning, and the verdict is expected to be delivered.
Berbice River taxis– discontinuation not ruled outThe Public Infrastructure Ministry could move to discontinue the services of the Berbice River Taxi, if an analysis to be carried out by the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD), finds that its operation is not feasible.Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure Annette FergusonMinister within the Ministry Annette Ferguson on Wednesday said she recently mandated the T&HD to carry out an analysis of the river taxi service, following which government will make a decision on whether or not it should be retained.Government implemented the Berbice River taxi service in September last year, after it failed in its attempt to reach an agreement with the directors of the Bridge Company to see a small reduction of the toll.Government had said it was seeking to introduce a more feasible system, which would see residents, particularly students and the elderly relieved of the financial burden. The operation of the bridge company had become burdensome particularly for vehicle owners, students and the elderly.After weeks of deadlock between Government and the Bridge Company, the latter finally came to an agreement, accepting Government’s proposal that it would provide a $40 million subsidy.Prior to reaching the agreement, bondholders of BBCI were asked to accept the lowering of interest rates and the significant extension of the repayment period on their investment in order to facilitate the reduction of tolls.The new tolls have seen private/hire cars, and minibuses paying $1900 compared to $2200 they were required to pay. Other types of vehicles were given a reduction of 10 per cent.Speaking with this publication, Ferguson said: “I don’t have the figures on hand but just recently, I have mandated the management of the Transport and Harbours Department to give an analysis of the operation. I hope that before the end of this week I receive it.”She pointed out that while government is subsidising the bridge operation, the T&HD is offsetting fuel expenses. This she noted is what led to a decision to analyse the situation to determine if it is feasible to retain the services of the river taxis.Meanwhile, minibus drivers have already complained about the financial strain they are experiencing because of the continued operation of the taxi service, although prices for the use of the Bridge have been reduced. She said since the last meeting with drivers, herself and Minister David Patterson earlier this year, she has not been able to deal specifically with the issues raised by drivers.
As Police reopen the investigation into the 2008 murder of East Bank Essequibo (EBE) businessmanDead businessman: HabiboodeanHabiboodean, four persons have been arrested while law enforcement continues the search for a fifth suspect, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum confirmed.Superintendent Blanhum said that investigators were now seeking the late businessman’s daughter who was a person of interest in the probe. He said despite several visits to her home, she could not have been located.However, according to Blanhum, the woman has already been blacklisted at all legal ports of entry, and would be promptly arrested if she attempted to flee the country.The Crime Chief could not say how soon charges would be laid against the suspects.Habiboodean, 77, of Ruby, EBE, died at a hospital after being badly beaten in his home on February 15, 2008.The businessman’s wife, Bibi Nazeela Habiboodean, now 50, and his former employee, Terry Lewton, 38, of Vergenoegen, EBE, were charged with the murder, but the case was subsequently dismissed owing to insufficient evidence.But investigators reopened the cold case following a breakthrough last week when one of the four men arrested for the murder of Mohamed Munir, 75, and his wife, Bibi Jamila Munir, 69, who were burnt to death in their Good Hope, EBE home said he had knowledge of Habiboodean’s death.Twenty-eight-year-old Linden Lewis, called “Bullet”, during interrogation, told investigators that he was the hit man behind Habiboodean’s murder.According to the suspect’s claims, he was hired by the businessman’s daughter who complained that his other relatives had received properties and other assets, while she had received nothing.The woman reportedly stated that she wanted her father’s fuel station, his cash in the bank, and assets in Georgetown.She reportedly promised Lewis $6 million and a house and land to kill her father.Lewis reportedly told investigators that five persons sat down and planned the elderly man’s murder.On February 15, 2008, the relative reportedly helped Lewis to gain access to Habiboodean’s house.The man said he was confronted by the businessman who asked him “What you doing here?”Lewis reportedly informed the businessman that he was sent by his (Habiboodean’s) daughter to kill him and began beating the elderly man with a piece of wood.Lewis said that he never received what was promised to him, but instead he was given $5000 “to go into the bush”.
By Vahnu ManikchandIn light of mounted calls on Government to take actions based on the findings from the forensic audits conducted at several state agencies, Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the United States Embassy Bryan Hunt posited that while there needs to be pressure on the State, Government is on the right track by not rushing the process.US Deputy Chief of MissionBryan HuntSpeaking exclusively with Guyana Times, the outgoing diplomat explained that Government was wise not to want to see prosecutions that are going to fail.“They want to make sure that whatever is taken to court by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has the best possible chance to bring those responsible for the crime to justice, which means they want to make sure that they have all the necessary evidence, that they have made sure that SOCU has carried out thorough investigations and can definitively answer the question who is responsible for the problems in the forensic audits,” he remarked.Hunt went on to say that Government should be careful that they do not only get those who were the final persons to sign the paperwork but also look that those who would have gave instructions to do so.“Often times, it is important to ask the question who ordered the person to sign the paperwork, who was the ultimate person responsible and we want to make sure that those authors of the criminal activities are also brought to justice,” he statedAccording to the US Diplomat, there is nothing wrong with civil society pushing Government to move forward, noting that the international community also wants to see this but at the same time, everyone should want the State to move forward in a systematic way that is going to achieve maximum results, that is, all the questions answered and evidence gathered.Moreover, Hunt pointed out that criminal prosecutions take time in Guyana. This, he said, is as a result of resources and requirements in the justice system, which includes many safeguards to ensure that those who are innocent are not wrongly convicted.“So I am not surprised that we are at a point where we don’t have people who are convicted of financial crimes,” he noted.He further explained that in complex investigations such as fraud or money laundering, which is what most of these cases are, one cannot expect that it is going to be completed instantaneously.“Certainly, the Government needed time to do the audits, hire professionals to look into it and then to digest the results of the audits they have received – the reports are not short, they are voluminous and it takes time to go through and read them; even more so, when you are trying to develop a prosecution base upon them,” Hunt stated.The US diplomat noted that while the forensic audits highlights where money should have been and where the holes are, it doesn’t necessarily answers the question of who is responsible for whatever gaps are there and this is where the law enforcement community has to become involved.“I believe the phase that we are in right now is at a point where we are taking the raw results of the forensic audits done by very qualified accounting firms, providing them to the law enforcement agencies like SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit) who will now going through those audits and determine what charges, if any, should be brought to bear against those responsible for misuse, misappropriated or misdirected funds,” he stressed.However, Hunt noted that it might be some time before persons can begin to see solid criminal prosecutions. He reminded that all law enforcement agencies around the world face human and financial constraints, especially in Guyana where they are now embarking on investigating financial crimes.To this end, he recommitted that the international community stands ready to assist SOCU and other related agencies in carrying out this task. Nevertheless, Hunt is optimistic that these forensic audits will turn into prosecution and those responsible for the misuse, misappropriation of resources will be held accountable.“I think that is very important especially since we are entering into a phase where Guyana is going to have a significantly increased state resource-based that needs to be managed effectively. People need to understand that there cannot be impunity for financial crimes… people need to have that deterrent effect and I think we are going to get there but it’s going to take time,” the US official noted.Finance Minister Winston Jordan has disclosed in December last that Government has spent in excess of $133 million on the audits, and President David Granger had stated his Administration is not ignoring these reports but noted that they may not be sufficiently grave to “bring the house down.”The Head of State noted that these audits would be guides for corrective action to ensure that there is no reoccurrence as well as to ensure that in cases where there is culpability, unlawful behaviour that persons could be brought before the court and if they are found guilty of having committed offences they could be punished.
Experts from the Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP) on Monday met with Government officials to offerRepresentatives from Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Caribbean Airlines, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority following the meetingtechnical support in developing Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector.The team, comprising Deputy Director General Rafael Ramos Palmeros, Senior Advisor to the Director General Gustavo Oficial Ramirez, Head of Innovation Zurisadday Enrique Plata Calderon and Manager Israel Alejandro Vigueras Gamas, is working in collaboration with the Mexican Embassy. It will be working with a technical team from the Natural Resources Ministry. This collaboration, it was said, will be aiding in the development of a Petroleum Regulatory Agency and Institute, tertiary and technical education and training in the mining, oil, gas and environment sectors in Guyana.On Monday, the experts met with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman to discuss the work of the IMP. During the meeting, a proposal for providing support was presented which emphasised a pitch for country ownership and the development of an authentic Guyanese model. Minister Trotman, in expressing his gratitude for the offer and assistance, stated that Guyana was willing to work with Mexico, which has a long history in the oil and gas sector.The experts are expected to develop three white papers for consideration by the Guyana Government in the areas of: production and consumption; framework for a regulatory agency and the development of elements for the establishment of the Petroleum Institute.While here, the IMP officials will be meeting with Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine; heads of agencies under the purview of the Natural Resources Ministry; University of Guyana Vice Chancellor, Dr Ivelaw Griffith, and representatives from the university’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences to discuss issues in relation to the proposals.The Mexican Petroleum Institute has over 50 years of experience in Mexico’s petroleum industry and is the country’s leading research centre dedicated to technological research and development, provision of engineering and technical services, training, and awarding degrees, and participating in strategic and technological joint ventures.