IT SEEMS someone has drawn a rather large sou-sou "hand" recently. To the tune of $22 million. “I really don’t know who to trust,” Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said on Wednesday after a baffling series of events which raised questions about how the State handles financial probes.
Just as disconcerting as the speed with which the huge sum of money confiscated in La Horquetta was returned, is the seemingly confusing response of officials who should be in charge of investigating suspicious financial dealings.
Officials said the $22 million was returned to the administrator of the sou-sou at the centre of the police action in circumstances in which it was reportedly unclear who made this call.
Mr Griffith vowed to conduct a thorough investigation to find out who authorised the return. He also suggested police officers themselves may have had serious conflicts, being themselves involved in the “pyramid scheme.”
In addition to the sense of the chain of command being broken, the commissioner further stated he made a mistake by sending the money to a police station – where it would be subject to the same divisional hierarchy – and not directly to the Financial Investigations Bureau (FIB).
Investigators are often told to “follow the money” if they want to find answers. But following the money in this instance seems far from straightforward given the multiple agencies and laws and officials that constitute the regulatory arrangements.
Mr Griffith, who has been at war with the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), said another agency, the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) of the Police Service, would be asked to take action.
The PSB, and not the PCA, is expected to conduct a search and seizure of its own: taking custody of receipt books and documents related to the confiscated cash. Will the findings be shared with the PCA?
The FIB will also be involved in the enquiry, according to the commissioner. But at the same time Mr Griffith has also stated an intention to source “an external financial auditor.”
The puzzling regulatory picture is completed by the statement by the director of yet another entity, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). FIU director Nigel Stoddard said its role is not to conduct investigations, a matter that is for the police.
“If they need our assistance they can request that,” Mr Stoddard said, “and we will help …in accordance with the FIU legislation.”
There are too many members in this regulatory sou sou. The miasma of confusion undermines a system that even the top cop is suspicious of.
Separate and apart from the policy issues involved, it this paper's view that bad apples need to be dealt with and agencies need to co-operate.
Or else "hands" will keep on disappearing.