Embattled PS denies theft of public funds, owning billions

first_img…claims SOCU agents leaked confidential information to selected mediaEmbattled Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Omar Shariff has broken his silence to deny the allegations being peddled in the public domain that he embezzled, stole or laundered billions of dollars of public funds for personal gain.Sheriff was sent on leave by Minister of State Joseph Harmon pending an investigation by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) into his financial affairs.Shariff has since categorically denied the reports that he has billions of dollars in his bank accounts and further charges that sections of the local media has been abusing its rights afforded to it as the Fourth Estate and is in fact ensnared in a plot against him:“I deny all allegations which seek to link me and my business to money laundering, tax evasion and any corrupt practice that arise as a result of misuse of public funds or the breakage of the law.”SOCU leaksHe lamented that information disclosed to SOCU which was obtained through a warrant has since found its way into the public domain.According to Shariff, “The fact that selected media houses continue to publish detailed information which they purport to be true (but which is materially and substantially false) about my alleged assets, accounts and their contents, is indicative that one or more persons at a high level of the investigation is not only leaking information but is pursuing an obvious agenda against me by seeking to try me in public, impugn my integrity and reduce my standing as a professional.”Shariff for the first time broke his silence yesterday, after being accused in the public domain of having some $10 billion in personal accounts which led SOCU to launch an investigation into his financial affairs.The permanent secretary who served under the previous administration and was retained by the current government, on Saturday said: “After consultation with my attorney, I have been advised that it is now appropriate and has become necessary for me to address the false and unsubstantiated allegations and imputations being published by the electronic, broadcast and print media.”According to Shariff: “I wish to strongly condemn a series of vile, sensationalist, untrue, propagandistic, and, insubstantial and material respects, misleading news reports carried by sections of the electronic, broadcast and print media in Guyana following a decision by the Special Organized Crime Unit to launch an investigation into a personal matter related to tax remittance and compliance regarding my legitimate business operations over the past few years.”Shariff has since sought to make it pellucid that the matter of tax remittance and compliance has been an ongoing engagement “between my business and the tax authority from as early as 2007.”He said the distortion of this personal income tax matter to make it appear to be theft and embezzlement of public funds is without any factual foundation and is in fact mischief by its orchestrators.In what could be read as a direct remark to SOCU, Shariff said, “I call upon the individuals within the organs of the state to exercise restraint in agenda setting and the divulging of information for sensationalism which compromises not only the state organs themselves but also the banking system, citizens’ confidence in the rule of law, and Guyana as a maturing democracy.”Simply not true“I would like it to be known that I have not been involved by myself or in collusion with others in any theft or embezzlement of public funds…I am unable to discern from where the publications have concluded that I was holding billions of dollars in my accounts; this is simply not true,” according to the Permanent Secretary.He said the continued publication of “these have caused me and my family great concern – security, hardship and otherwise.”He used the opportunity to lament and express disappointment that information he provided to SOCU and which SOCU took from his home pursuant to a search warrant has found its way into the public domain and has been “deliberately skewed, distorted, misrepresented and misinterpreted for obvious sensationalism, implying I had stolen billions of dollars of public funds and owned billions of dollars’ worth of property and shares in public companies; none of which have any factual underpinning…This is simply not true.”The embattled permanent secretary said he has provided all of the information asked for, “while making myself available to answer any and all questions about my business, its revenue and related tax matters.”Iterating confidence in the Government and “my expectation of the investigating bodies and all concerned with probing this matter that due process and justice will prevail and the rule of law maintained,” Shariff declared “I am confident that I will be vindicated at the end of this matter.”last_img read more

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