Omar Shariff denies having “billions”, breaking law; condemns “sensationalist” reports

Omar Shariff

Omar Shariff, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Presidency sent on administrative leave to facilitate a probe, is roundly denying allegations of wrongdoing and claims that he has billions of dollars in several commercial banks.

Shariff sent a statement to the media on Saturday. See full statement below:

Statement by Omar Shariff

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.

I wish to strongly condemn a series of vile, sensationalist, untrue, propagandistic, and, in substantial 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. The latter being an engagement between my business and the tax authority from as early as 2007. The distortion of this personal income tax matter to make it appear to be theft and embezzlement of public funds was without any factual foundation and mischievous by those who did so.

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. The continued publication of these have caused me and my family great concern- security, hardship and otherwise.

I have an inherent deep respect for the fourth estate’s role and its right to pursue truth and facts surrounding any matter of public concern, with its concomitant responsibility. However, when that right is abused, manipulated and a deliberate agenda is seemingly pursued to achieve character assassination, the distortion of facts and the Goebbelsian peddling of misinformation, there is cause for concern not only for myself and family but also for the many law abiding citizens who can become ensnared and victims of such grave injustices.

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.

I am disappointed that information I provided to SOCU and which SOCU took from my 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.

I wish to make it pellucid that, since the commencement of the investigation by SOCU and other agencies, I have cooperated fully at every level of the process. I have 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.

I have also informed the Ministry of the Presidency at the earliest convenient opportunity of the private matter. When instructed by my subject Minister Joseph Harmon, I proceeded on my annual leave to allow the probe to take place unhindered.

Finally, 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.

I wish to iterate my 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. I am confident that I will be vindicated at the end of this matter.

I call on the media to practice the tenants of fair, impartial, balanced and responsible journalism as they exercise their right to follow up this matter. And, 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.