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Host of the ‘Straight Up’ Programme, social activist and criminologist, Mark Benschop is demanding Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, recuse herself from all matters relating to the embattled Detective Sergeant Dion Bascom and businessman Nazruddin Mohamed.
Benschop joined others critical of the DPP’s handling of matters relating to Bascom brought against Bascom by the state and dropping a private criminal charge he brought against Crime Chief, Assistant Commissioner of Police Wendell Blanham.
Retired Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe in his recent ‘Speaking Out’ programme drew attention to the Public Information Act that protects whistleblowers from any charge, criminal or civil, relating to the subject matter.
Last August, Bascom in an explosive social media post accused the Guyana Police Force, namely Detective Superintendent Mitchell Caesar of engaging in a cover-up on the alleged murder of Ricardo Fagundes, aka ‘Paper Short’ on March 21, 2021 shortly after him leaving the Palm Court night club, Main Street, Georgetown.
The detective sergeant implicated businessman Nazruddin Mohamed and his security guard Mark Richmond in the killing. All have denied the allegations. Mohammed and Richmond have since filed lawsuits against Bascom. Caesar along with Superintendent Chabinauth Singh and Inspector Richard Frank have filed cybercrime complaints against Bascom. He has three charges against him for “using a computer system to humiliate a person contrary to Section 19(5) of the Cybercrime Act 2018.” The offense was allegedly committed on August 13 and August 19, 2022.
In Guyana the Office of the DPP recommends charges that are instituted by the state.
On September 14 Bascom appeared in the magistrate court to answer the charges and pleaded not guilty. Prior to the charges and after the police conference of August 18 deeming his allegations malicious, the detective said he is standing by his story.
Last Wednesday, September 28, when he appeared in Court for the trial, Senior Magistrate Leron Daly remanded Police Prosecutor and Advisor to the Police Force, attorney-at-law Mandel Moore for failing to disclose evidence as ordered, i.e a copy of the Police’s August 18 press conference
The DPP thereafter wrote to acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards requesting the magistrate’s removal. This request is not sitting well with Benschop who feels it is the DPP who should recuse herself for not only interfering in the work of the judiciary but also given what he feels is conflict of interest.
The criminologist is contending, to ensure justice is distributed across the board without fear, favour or ill will, the DPP cannot be there because it appears as though she has vested interest. “It has become very obvious. First, she discontinued the private cybercrime charge brought by Bascom against Blanham as the allowed the charges against Bascom to continue.”
Further, “when you view the police’s press conference one can easily walk away with the impression a preponderance of evidence lingers over the crime chief as it pertains to violations of the Cybercrime Act against Bascom, yet the DPP withdrew Bascom’s charge against the crime chief,” said Benschop.
Touching on the issue of the police prosecutor being remanded (briefly), the social activist said the magistrate has every right to treat all parties equally and Moore has no immunity.
“He has disrespected the court in an attempt to subvert the rule of law. The magistrate acted appropriately. She should have sent [the prosecutor] to jail for the night to teach him a lesson. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the DPP, the magistrate’s fairness presented discomfort hence her effort to remove the magistrate with no plausible reason.”
The DPP’s actions on the Bascom’s matter suggests she is more interested in the outcome being in her favour than on the side of justice, argued Benschop. “One can see the DPP has taken a personal interest in Bascom and the outcome of the case.”
Rhetorically he asked Village Voice, “Why does the DPP want the magistrate to recuse herself; is it to place the case in the hands of a magistrate to ensure the DPP gets a desired outcome?” If that is the case, he said, the country’s judicial system is in serious trouble. “The magistrate should not be the one to recuse herself but rather the DPP who has close religious ties to the Mohameds through the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG).
“In any other part of the developed world the DPP would have had to resign her position because it appears she is using her position to influence a particular income.”
The DPP is a Muslim and so is her husband who is a leader in the CIOG. Doing the social media rounds are photos of DPP’s husband, Mohammed and his father.
Public perception, said the criminologist, should cause her to recuse herself from any matter concerning the Mohameds and apologise to the senior magistrate for interfering in the judicial process. “The acting chancellor should do the honourable thing and disregard the DPP’s request”