NICIL Deputy’s involvement a blatant conflict of interest – Chris Ram, Ramjattan
The role of a senior official of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) in registering a movie theater company earlier this year has been described as a blatant conflict of interest.
The movie theater company, Multicinemas Guyana Inc. and the government are currently embroiled in a court action over a piece of prime land at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara with hardware giant, Toolsie Persaud Limited.
Toolsie Persaud had also named the Attorney General and NICIL in that court action.
According to Multicinemas’ Articles of Incorporation, NICIL’s second in command, Marcia Nadir-Sharma, is listed and has signed as the Incorporator.
This is clearly a conflict of interest for Nadir-Sharma to be acting as an attorney-at-law while she is holding the substantive post of being the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Company Secretary of NICIL, say attorneys-at-law Christopher Ram and Khemraj Ramjattan.
NICIL is a government-owned agency responsible for subscribing for, taking or otherwise acquiring and holding the Government shares, stocks, debentures or other securities of any company, co-operatives societies or body corporate. It has been facilitating the sale and lease of state lands and assets within recent years.
Like Ram, Ramjattan who is the AFC’s Presidential Candidate for the upcoming national elections, is of the view that an attorney other than Nadir should have incorporated the private company.
“State lawyers do not indulge in this kind of private practice. Moreover, being the lawyer who is NICIL’s second in charge, with NICIL selling to Multicinemas, mean that the transaction could not be at arms’ length at all.”
Ramjattan explained that the private company and NICIL had one common factor- Nadir- Sharma.
“This whole transaction is tainted as a result. Clearly unethical, it may include some illegality.”
The land case has taken heightened significance with government admitting over the past week that it has already sold off over 10 acres of land at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara – which has been the source of litigation – to a Trinidad-based company that wants to build a movie and entertainment complex.
The sod-turning of MovieTowne was scheduled for two Thursdays ago, but was cancelled the same day. One day before, a judge had granted an injunction ordering equipment, workers and others off the land until a determination could be made on an application filed by Toolsie Persaud Limited.
Last Sunday, Kaieteur News broke the story on the legal battle over a tract of land at Turkeyen, part of which included the piece which MovieTowne was set to build on.
On Monday night, the government accused Kaieteur News of publishing yet another ‘biased’ and ‘irresponsible’ report.
The newspaper had reported on the court documents and what it knew of the sod-turning ceremony.
“The article appears to be totally a publication of what Mr. Toolsie Persaud has stated in court papers. The article makes no attempt to ascertain the facts or to present a balanced view,” the statement from government said.
It was unclear what government meant by “ascertain the facts” since newspapers and the media are barred from commenting or seeking comments on matters before the court…at least until they have concluded.
Kaieteur News had mentioned that the invitation for the sod-turning event at Turkeyen had the printed name of businessman, Brian James, an official of Auto Supplies Limited.
Addressing this, the statement said that by referencing associates of the Government, the Kaieteur News “again seeks to distort the true facts of the matter.”
While not naming Brian James, government insisted that he is neither an officer or shareholder of Multi-Cinemas (Guyana) Inc or its sister company.
The statement did not mention the fact that Brian James’ Auto Supplies offices at 306 Peter Rose Streets, Queenstown, is the same registered address of Multicinemas Guyana Inc.
“Government considers KN article to be a total misrepresentation. Contrary to the report in KN, the CCJ never ordered Government to transfer title to TPL.”
Kaieteur News was only reporting on what the court documents said.
“Government asserts that the sale of land owned by Government, with such ownership rights being reaffirmed by the CCJ, is proper. Given that this matter is currently before the courts, Government will address the details of this matter at an appropriate time in the future.”
It is unclear again what the government meant since by issuing the statement, it is already providing the details of the matter.
The government said that the article erroneously states that the land is owned by Toolsie Persaud Limited. “The land is owned by the Government as reaffirmed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in July 2008. Despite judgment in favour of the Government, by the highest court subscribed to by Guyana, the CCJ, Mr. Toolsie Persaud continues to seek to frustrate Government’s attempt to develop the area, via their legal action in the local courts.”
The government insisted that it has pursued the development of these lands in an open and transparent manner.
“Government’s plans to unveil the creation of a Movietowne and Entertainment Complex in Guyana, at the said location at Liliendaal, is thwarted by Mr. Toolsie Persaud’s abuse of the legal system.”
The government went further and admitted that earlier this year, via National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), it sold 10.002 acres of land to Multi Cinemas (Guyana) Inc, the sister company of the Trinidadian company Multi Cinemas Inc, that owns Movietowne in Trinidad, to develop a similar project in Guyana.
“This sale and passage of title was completed in early August.”
The land is immediately west of the UG Access Road and facing the East Coast Demerara Public Road.
Toolsie Persaud Limited has taken the Attorney General, NICIL and the movie theatre company to court to halt the construction of the project.
Toolsie Persaud Limited is contending that it will not accept compensation since it is the rightful owner of the land, having purchased it in 1987 via an agreement of sale with government.