Georgetown: A gold smuggling charge against Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo businessman Christopher Baldeo was on Thursday dismissed by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan after the Prosecution failed to prove its case.
Baldeo was taken before the Court on a charge which stated that on February 6, 2015 at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, he exported gold valued US$69,142 without being the holder of an export licence from the Guyana Gold Board.
Police Prosecutor Bharrat Mangru had previously called four witnesses. Those witnesses were Airport Personnel Trevor Reid, Lisa Ramotar, Sydney James and Officer Tindel from the Special Organised Crime Unit.
On Thursday the Court was scheduled to hear the testimony of Agent Frank Racanti of the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency of Homeland Security. This testimony was expected to be heard via Skype.
However, the Prosecutor was unable to produce this testimony, telling the Court that the Agency is unaware of Guyana’s legal requirements for the Agent to give his testimony.
After offering that explanation, the Prosecutor requested an additional three weeks for the hierarchy of the American Agency to permit their agent to testify in the matter.
However, Defence Attorney Latchmi Rahamat countered the application and requested that the Court resist the Prosecutor’s application, and filed a no case submission.
Rahamat explained that after the Prosecutor’s continuous failure to produce the last witness’ testimony, the Magistrate had scheduled Thursday for the Prosecutor to close his case. She stated that the Court had been lenient in extending time to the Prosecutor to close his case on more than one occasion.
She urged the Magistrate to draw the line Thursday, as time and resources were being wasted on the matter.
She posited that her client should not have been charged and brought to Court if a case was not properly made out against him.
She expressed her desire to proceed with the defence as the Prosecutor has no definitive excuse for the absence of the witness.
On that note, the Prosecutor presented its final witness, Officer Tindel who stated that he neither saw the defendant in possession of gold nor did he see him leave Guyana’s shores.
Rahamat in her final submission related that it was up to the Prosecution to prove all the elements of the charge. She further explained that of the four witnesses, James’ evidence remained incomplete and so the Court could not put any weight thereon, as such the Court was left to rely on the evidence of the remaining witnesses.
“It is the Defence’s contention that the Prosecution failed to meet the threshold of a Prima Facie case against Christopher Baldeo since they failed miserably to establish the elements of the offence for which the defendant is charged,” she stated.
She went on to explain that where the elements of a charge are not proven by the Prosecutor, the Court need not move forward with the case.
She revealed that all of the witnesses who testified stated that they never saw the alleged gold and as such, there is reason to question whether the subject matter – the gold – even existed.
She pointed out that in Ramotar’s statement, she testified to conducting a search of the defendant but did not find a gold export licence issued to him.
Rahamat argued this testimony, stating that the GGB issues licences to mining companies in their names, not to individuals. She went on to state that these companies hire persons to transport the gold for them, and the Board has a flawed system whereas the list of employees is not available for reference purposes.
Prosecutor Mangru, when given an opportunity to answer to these submissions, stated that he relied on the testimonies of his witnesses and conceded that he had not proven the case.
As such, the Magistrate ruled that based on the evidence and testimonies, it was clear that a Prima Facie case could not be made out against Baldeo.
She found Baldeo not guilty and dismissed the case. However, there is still an additional charge of similar nature which Baldeo is on trial for.