Guyana: The uphill fight against corruption – By Adam Harris

The uphill fight against corruption

Dishonesty is a part of human character. People will do those things that are wrong, because they believe that they will not be caught. Such is the case with smuggling. This past week the authorities nabbed a senior police officer with a large quantity of whisky.

Surely this could not have been the first time that the officer was involved in such a thing. However, this time a junior rank was not fazed when he spotted a case of whisky in the minibus. A search revealed another 30 cases.   

We learnt that the officer said that the whisky was the property of the Guyana Police Force. There was a time when a junior rank would accede to the senior rank but this time, perhaps with a new dispensation, the junior rank opted to question what he heard. He found that his senior had lied, so he made an arrest.

One of the things people in power often do is to blame a junior or to get a fall guy. This fall guy, for a few promised dollars, would take blame. In this case the penalty for smuggling whisky is not jail. At best it would be a huge fine which the fall guy may not be required to pay, because the other person will get the money.

In cases like this, there is often a buyer who is no mean person when it comes to having cash. Although he may have lost out on this shipment, he knows that there will be more in the future. That is how the senior police officer was able to offer this excuse. He tells the authorities that he had begged for a lift and was unwittingly caught in this situation.

True to form, the minibus driver claims the smuggled whisky. But there is something that the investigators know. They know of the early statements given by the senior officer at the time of the arrest.

This is not the only case of someone asking a junior to take the blame.
The law enforcers from the Guyana Revenue Authority managed to bust a large truck with smuggled chicken. It was a huge bust and explains why the local producers contend that they are operating on an uneven playing field.

In Guyana we talk about creating employment; we ask for local investors to help create jobs. But there are the smugglers who always put paid to the efforts of the local investors.

As was the case of the senior police officer with the whisky, the vehicle owner removes himself from the scene. He claims that he loaned his truck to someone. We have heard nothing from the truck driver, except that the tons of smuggled chicken were found in his truck.

This situation opens up an interesting situation. If I have cocaine in my car and I ask someone to take it to a source, then when he is caught I can easily say that I am not responsible, that I loaned my vehicle to someone. But there is another situation that depends on the kind of insurance that I have. Secondly, whatever the case, as owner of the vehicle I am liable.

Further, the police have the right to seize the vehicle so that I lose my cocaine and my vehicle. But I suppose some people do not mind that, because they are going to stay out of jail.

The vehicle will one day go on sale and the owner with his money will get someone to bid for it. He will get it cheaper than if he had to buy another.

But while that thought process is underway, there are other things happening. The people with the money and the head of the smuggling operation are approaching those in law enforcement who are always reaching out for money. For the smuggler the inducement is peanuts.

If things go well, then the investigating ranks will prepare a weak case and the case is thrown out. But these days there are people who monitor the preparation of the case. They see the weaknesses and they order the corrections.

What is known is that there is a lot of money outside the system. People have been salting away money because they want to avoid paying the taxes.

The anti-money laundering legislation now means that the money cannot readily get into the banking system. But money is money and it has to be spent. The next best thing to do is to launder it. That is why there is so much smuggling.

The idea that people in the administration are being approached is known, but the general public does not know that action is taken as soon as the corrupt official is spotted.

The Guyana Revenue Authority has sacked more than 100 people this past year. That translates into one every three days.

In some societies the courts would have been busy. In Guyana, we simply rid ourselves of the corrupt ones, leaving him/her to seek employment in another area.
Of interest is that the authorities are aware of where the contraband enters the country.

Because of scarce resources they cannot plug every loophole, but they do try. That explains the large cocaine bust recently and the arrest of some foreign nationals.
Meanwhile, the disciplined services are going to get a huge stock of chicken and some other law enforcement agency is going to get a lot of whisky.

Who gets the cocaine? That should be put in a place until it is time to dispose of it. But in our society, the cocaine also disappears from custody. If it disappears, the prosecution is stymied. We are in a Catch-22 situation.

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