Legal irregularities frustrate land issue
By Prakash Persaud
I wish to express my disappointment with the sordidness being practised by some individuals whom we expect to display some degree of moral standings, but who instead contribute to the decay of ethical fibre in our beloved country.
Yet, some such people have the courage to appear in various forums to embellish their nefarious performances.
The following documented experiences which speak for themselves support my conclusion.
My Principal, Drupati Persaud, who was my mother-in-law, obtained in her favour in 1986 a High Court Judgment against the estate of the late Baldeo Ramgolam of Chateau Margot, East Coast Demerara.
In addition, Justice Kenneth Barnwell ordered that Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam, who was one of two Executrices of the Estate, apply for Probate of the Estate immediately then to make sure that all the assets of the Estate would be identified and so collected.
Both Chandra Ramgolam and her Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman further confirmed in affidavits sworn by them on 25th May, 1995 and 24th June, 1999 respectively that I was the agent/attorney for the Plaintiff Drupati Persaud.
Also, both Chandra Ramgolam and her Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman who were in Court in July 1986 promised to obtain Probate of the Estate within two months from then. However, in spite of several promises, application for same was not done until 1992 -six years later!
In the application for probate in 1992, a supplementary affidavit by Chandra Ramgolam drawn by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman, she averred in paragraph 2 (two) “That on the 21st day of July 1986 Mr. Prakash Persaud was named Receiver by Mr. Justice Barnwell and he has been in possession of all the assets since that date. Hereto attached and marked “Exhibit A” is a photocopy of the said Order”.
However, unknown to me, shortly after, an Agreement of Sale and Purchase was made with Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam as Vendor, and Mahendra Jetto, of 10 Industry Crown Dam, East Coast Demerara, as Purchaser for the major assets of that estate in my possession – 768 acres of Lands and Sawmills etc. at Pln. Clemwood, Demerara River.
That Agreement was witnessed by Sheila A. Chapman and Lorna Bayley and was purported to give “immediate possession to the Purchaser by the Vendor on the signing of the agreement”
The Practitioner, Ms. Sheila Chapman, herself had inter-meddled in the estate when by letter the same day – 6th October, 1993 she wrote Mr. Jerry Dhanpaul, who was living on the property of that Estate, telling him that the property was sold and that permission to retain a house on the land was terminated.
After signing the questionable Agreement of Sale dated 6th October, 1993, Ms. Sheila Chapman after three years – (on 30th April, 1996) signed as Attorney –at-Law for the Vendor Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam in her capacity as Executrix of the Estate of Baldeo Ramgolam; and Mr.Mortimer Coddett signed as Attorney-at-Law for the Purchaser, Mahendra Jetto; and instructed the Registrar of Deeds of Guyana to advertise the Transport of the 768 acres of Land at Pln. Clemwood, Demerara River.
No Transport was mentioned, and it seems that because of trepidation no such advertisement took place. But yet, for reasons better known to them, an affidavit was then drawn by Attorneys-at-Law Sheila A. Chapman, Avril A. Trotman and Raphael C.C.Trotman eight months later (on 20th November, 1996) praying for the grant of an Order from the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature for Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam to sell the 768 acres of Lands and Sawmill along with derelict equipment at Pln. Clemwood, Demerara. River, and saying “That MAHENDRA JETTO has now offered to purchase the said sawmill and derelict equipment” Those were the said properties that were purported sold to MAHENDRA JETTO since 6th October, 1993 when “Immediate possession” was given to the Purchaser from the Vendor !
I then learnt of that application to the High Court praying for an Order to sell the properties at Clemwood, Demerara River; and I then wrote the then Hon. Chief Justice, Madam Justice Desiree Bernard, CCH.of the Supreme Court informing her that I was the Receiver of all the assets of that Estate, and sought Her Honors’ indulgence for me to be served notices as to the next date of hearing of the matter in Court.
Her Honour responded favourably, and the applicants then abandoned that course also.
In spite of all these happenings, Mahendra Jettoo and Chandra Ramgolam, and their respective Attorneys-at-Law, Mr. Mortimer Coddett and Ms. Sheila Chapman who were all fully aware that I was in possession of all the assets of the Estate, nonetheless surreptitiously appeared two years later before Honourable Mr. Justice Carl Singh in the High Court of Guyana, and obviously by means of some intrigues obtained from him a highly ridiculous Order No. 958 dated 27th October, 1998, which stated “IT IS BY CONSENT ORDERED that the Registrar of Deeds be and it is hereby directed to pass Transport to the Plaintiff MAHENDRA JETTOO on or before time of conveyance.”!.
It is also, even, rather unusual for the Transport Number not to have been mentioned therein. No conundrum, legal or otherwise, can explain or interpret this “Order”.
The defendant Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam was not ordered to pass Transport to Mahendra Jettoo, failing which the Registrar is ordered to do so, as is the usual form of Order of the Court.
I got a wind of the situation, and I tried at the Deeds Registry of the Supreme Court to obtain a copy of the original Transport for the Lands at Clemwood Demerara River, but it was absent from records there. It may have been removed from the records to conceal any skullduggery that may be ongoing!
I later learnt that by the use of that “Consent Order No. 958 of 1998”, Transport No.1956/98 for the Clemwood, Demerara River properties was passed (with no annotation made on it of the previous Transport No. 1345 of 1949) to Mahendra Jettoo on Old Year’s day 1998; and he received unusual attention to uplift it the same day.
I then decided to make some investigations on the matter; and I sought the help of an acquaintance of Mahendra Jettoo to assist me in my endeavor. He managed to obtain from Mahendra Jettoo the “missing original Transport No. 1345 of 1949” which was supposed to be secured at the Deeds Registry I made a photocopy of it, and he returned it to Jettoo, who had asked him not to show it to anyone else.
Similarly, no annotation was made on the 1949 Transport that the properties have been sold and Transported to Jettoo; and there seems to be a conspiracy to keep the conveyance as secretive as possible. Undoubtedly, it was a well thought out long-term plan to execute an alleged fraud on the major assets of the Estate, since except for the Transport No. 1345 of 1949 Demerara which were missing from the Deeds Registry, annotations were made by the Registrar on all the other five Transports for Properties owned by the late Baldeo Ramgolam, that those properties were passed for levy by the Plaintiff–Drupati Persaud in this matter.
Furthermore, ever since the application for the probate of the Estate, which was done under the cover of an affidavit sworn by Chandra Mahadai Ramgolam and drawn by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman, the Transport Numbers for all the other five real estate properties were declared, but mention of Transport No. 1345 of 1949 for the Demerara River properties was avoided.
Later, Chief Justice, Honourable Mr. Justice Carl Singh, acting on my complaint as regards the interferences by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman on the estate of the late Baldeo Ramgolam, which was in my possession, telephoned Ms. Chapman at her office on the issue on 9th July, 2001.
Ms. Sheila Chapman then said to him (the Chief Justice) that the “said terms of receivership did not affect immovable property.”
Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman later that very day (9th July, 2001) displayed a problem with her mental health, by yet sending the Chief Justice under her complimentary slip, a copy of the High Court Certificate No.3773/1985 which showed “PRAKASH PERSAUD as Receiver in respect of all the Assets of the Estate of BALDEO RAMGOLAM, deceased.” and also some written arguments saying it was legal for me to receive only movable assets!
In the year 1999, I filed a case in the High Court through Attorney-at-law Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan for the return of the Clemwood properties to the list of properties received by me. And during that filing, Mr. Ramjattan told me that Ms. Sheila Chapman’s son – Attorney-at-Law Mr. Raphael Trotman suggested to him that he abandon my case, as it was useless to do such a matter since the Judge had given an order to sell the properties !.
I am not sure whether Mr. Ramjattan mentioned to him that the purported sale of the properties took place five years before any such Order was given by the Judge. Nevertheless, I understood that Mr. Ramjattan was continuing with my case, as I was aware that he filed the signed pleadings of my case to the High Court.
Within six months after Mahendra Jetto obtained Transport No. 1956 of 1998, the very Clemwood, Demerara River properties, were advertised in Guyana Official Gazette for sale to a Company registered in Guyana.
The sale was challenged by me, and the Hon.Chief Justice, Mr.Carl Singh sitting with Hon. Mr. Justice Roy in the Full Court, then found, that all the assets of the Estate of Baldeo Ramgolam (decd.) were indeed received by me, and made Interim Order No. 95 of 2002 restraining Mahendra Jetto from effecting any conveyance of the property to anyone or any entity whatsoever.
I had also complained to Attorney General, Mr. Doodnauth Singh about the fraud and general injustice being done to me more particularly by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman, and upon his advice I took the matter up with the Legal Practitioner’s Committee.
I attended hearings of my complaint at the Court of Appeal building by the Legal Practitioner’s Committee of four lawyers headed by a Senior Counsel.
My lawyer, Mr.Ramjattan never turned up to represent me. But in fact he admonished me and said that I was putting him in a difficult spot, since he had to consider the question of fraternity.
The hearings displayed a mood of abhorrence against me for making such a charge against one of their fellow lawyers. My last attendance for the case at the Court of Appeal building was on 27th
After quite some time I officially requested from that office of the Legal Practitioner’s Committee, copies of the record of those proceedings. I obtained the copies, but over eighty per cent of the relevant documents were missing from the file. However, the ‘fly leaf’- (summary of the case proceedings) was in it, and I was appalled when I saw written at the end of it, thus “Committee is of the view that there is no lawyer and client relationship. Resp. was counsel to the other side. Final adj to 27/1/2000 at 3.30 p.m.”
However, according to the Laws of Guyana Cap 4.01 Legal Practitioners –Procedure on application to strike off the roll [68 of 1952].
Item 24 (1) an application by a client or other person aggrieved to require a legal practitioner to answer any allegation made by such client or person against the legal practitioner, or to strike the name of the legal practitioner off the roll of the Court shall be made to the Registrar and shall be verified by affidavit.
In as much as Ms Chapman was counsel to the other side my complaint was against her and by the citation above I am a proper person to file such a complaint as I was a person aggrieved, and entitled to a hearing by the Legal Practitioner’s Committee. Many other sections of the law on this subject were also violated by the Committee to protect one of their peers.
Later, I learnt that Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan did file a case of fraud against fellow Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman in the High Court and for the return of the Clemwood, Demerara River properties to the estate of the late Baldeo Ramgolam, but he neither filed the requisite statement of claim nor the request for hearing of the case.
I did not discover this anomaly until the matter was scheduled to be heard in the High Court about six years later! As a result, my case flopped due to the statute of limitation.
Of course, like everyone else, I have feelings of affinity. Mr. Rafael Trotman’s father is a very close friend of our family to the extent that he can be considered to be one of us, and even though I think that Mr. Khemraj Ramjatttan is in a “fraternity flux” which sways him unpredictably, I nonetheless have a friendly relationship with him.
But, I recognize that freedom of people is to have a standing rule to live by. Common to every one in the society, is that no man should be subjected to the inconstant, uncertain, and unknown arbitrary will of another man.
As fate would have it, the Executrix, Mahadai Ramgolam, subsequently came to my home on her own free will and asserted that she was “misled and misguided” by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Sheila Chapman on the issue, and that after she recognized that she was set up to act so deviously, she offered to hand over to me the money she received for the purported sale of the properties. In order to authenticate the transaction, she submitted to me relevant receipts, bank statements etc.
However, I did not take the money because to so would have lent legitimacy to the fraud. The other Executrix, Parbatie, who was the reputed wife of the late Baldeo Ramgolam, left Guyana dejectedly to live overseas quite before probate of the estate was obtained. She has now learnt of the fraud committed on the estate, and she has now issued an irrevocable Power of Attorney for me to act on her behalf on any matters concerning her standing in the estate.
Be it as it may, I am asking for true justice to be dispensed in this and all other cases. Certainly, in democratic lands, the actors of such subversions of avowed judicial systems would have had their addresses changed a long time ago and for a long time too. Consequently, I hope that the relevant Authorities for Justice in Guyana would recognize the above mentioned irregularities; and though belated, take appropriate actions to infuse in the minds of Guyanese, some feelings of confidence in our justice system.
Condign sanctions will in due course be sought to be imposed after actions for perjury committed by persons involved, together with complaints of fraud, embezzlement and unbecoming conduct.