I will now relate my meeting with one such attorney who has played an enormous role in undermining the rule of law. His name is Anil Nandlall. I met him in his office on South Road Georgetown in August 2009.
First, some background on what led me to Atty Nandlall. My parents were peasant rice farmers who raised their ten children on a 15-acre rice and cattle farm on Leguan Island. Between 1972 and 1992, the whole family emigrated to the United States. One sibling, my eldest brother, Narine Persaud would occasionally return to Leguan for extended periods at a time, and particularly around the time just before my parents passed away in New York.
Before and after my father passed away in 2009, I asked my brother several times, about the status of the rice-lands. He at all times said the land is unencumbered or that he has a caretaker on the land. He always denied that he leased out or got title for the land.
In 2009, on a visit to Leguan, just after my father passed away I was alerted by the property office (NDC) that something was afoot. I visited the Deeds Registry office at Suddie, and there it was revealed that a rogue sibling had indeed got title to all 15-acres of our father’s property. How could this be? On what basis had the deed changed hands? My father always insisted that he did not pass his property to any one or other of his ten children – but wanted it left as “children property”, belonging to all his children. He specifically said that it must never be sold, but be preserved in the family as a memorial for the next “300 years”.
Leafing through the sheaf of papers as my ‘ballahoo’ navigated the treacherous waters of the Essequibo back to Parika, a name jumped out, Atty Anil Nandlall. He was the lawyer who did the deed transfer.
The following day I showed up at Mr. Nandlall’s office. He looked over the papers. We broke into a casual chat about my eldest brother, Narine Persaud, who now has title to the property. He described my brother’s balding head. “Da ole’ man know e’ self”, he said, acknowledging his scampishness about stealing properties.
Mr Nandlall explained the deed transfer was done on the basis of a document called a power-of-attorney, which my father signed over to Narine Persaud. I looked at the document and pointed out that the signature that purported to be my father’s was a forgery. The document was prepared by Mr. Nandlall’s secretary and signed by two witnesses, his secretary and another person, a clerk at the Deed’s Registry at Victoria Law Courts, Georgetown.
I told Mr. Nandlall that my father did not live in Guyana (he lived in New York) and therefore his secretary could not possibly have met or witnessed his signature.
Mr. Nandlall realized the whole transaction was a fraud. Another brother, Harry, who accompanied me to the meeting, related another family story that exactly replicated ours. In that case, a returning family member, Mohan, residing in Canada, returned to discover his father’s property had changed hands in an identical way. Mohan went to the attorney who quickly realized he was duped.
The attorney was incensed and he took it upon himself to prepare all necessary documents at no cost, took them to the same judge, explained he was duped by his own client, and thereupon all the deeds were reversed to the original owner.
Mr. Nandlall listened. We asked him to act likewise as that other attorney. He pushed back on his reclining chair, thought for a moment, then said: “Since I am part of the problem, you have to get another lawyer”.
For clarity and emphasis, at no time – he had an opportunity to do so – did Mr. Nandlall opt to defend the transaction as proper and legal. Mr. Nandlall knew a terrible fraud had been committed, that his good offices were a major enabler of the fraud, but felt no moral scruples that would move him to undo the fraud.
I then asked Mr. Nandlall for his secretary whose name was signed as a witness on the power-of-attorney document. I do not know what Mr. Nandlall was thinking about. He revealed that his former secretary who helped to manufacture the fraudulent document now lived in New York and worked as Mr. Ed. Ahmad’s confidential secretary.
I happen to live exactly five blocks from Ed Ahmad’s posh real estate office. Back in New York one week later, I showed up at Ed Ahmad’s office. And, there was Mr. Nandlall’s former secretary, Mona Boodhan, about to sit down for lunch. I showed her the power-of-attorney with her signature. She admitted that she prepared and notarized the fraudulent power-of-attorney document. I asked her to describe my father. She said she never saw my father. How did she then sign certifying his signature? She said that’s how these documents are done all the time. Someone orders it, pays for it, and the office does it.
In a family of ten children, it is bad enough to have one rogue sibling, but infinitely worse to have attorneys like Nandlall practising law.
Before returning to New York in 2009, I confronted the second signatory, Rukmini Bijlall who worked as a clerk at the Deeds Registry. I showed her, her signature on a power-of-attorney witnessing/certifying my father’s signature. She admitted she signed it. Did she see my father? She said she did not. Why did she sign to certify my father’s signature? She said, once the document comes from Mr. Nandlall’s office she accepts the veracity of it.
Mr. Nandlall’s office without a doubt has been a factory for manufacturing fraudulent legal documents which have then been used as vehicles to change titles of properties valued millions of dollars. One remarkable thing. My father was not living in Guyana at the time when the power-of-attorney was prepared, and his forged signature was certified by at least three people: Notary public Geeta Prashad, two witnesses of the signature, Mona Boodhan and Rukmini Bijlall. Not one of them bothered to ask to see my father, whose signature they were certifying/witnessing.
In the summer of 2010 I returned to Guyana. I showed up this time at AG Ramson’s office. For three straight days I pleaded with him – via a handwritten note to a receptionist – for a chance to discuss how Power-of-attorneys are being manufactured in the country and how it has become a vehicle to steal people’s properties.
On the third day Mr. Ramson seemed to relent. He assigned a Russian trained lawyer (whose name I have since written in sand and covered it up with mud) to meet with me. This mild mannered gentleman sought to convince me that my land case is a civil matter.
In the last five years I have heard of numerous similar cases – the number is probably in hundreds, if not thousands – in which fraudulent powers-of-attorney have become the favored vehicle to steal properties. Guyana is a land in which half the population live outside the country and their real estate assets are left in the care of relatives or friends. This situation has spawned a whole industry of fraudulent documents.
And, the Attorneys-General Ramson and now currently Nandlall – both men think this category of frauds are civil not criminal. One of them actively participated in the frauds. I felt only disgust and contempt for the office of the Attorney-General
My father’s dream of having his rice lands preserved among his descendants for another “300-years” may not be fulfilled simply because of corrupted officers of the law and a state where the rule of law barely functions.
In September this year my attorney Sase Gunraj obtained an injunction against a gentleman named Seepersaud who claimed to be a caretaker of the rice lands.The injunction was signed by Chief Justice Ian Chang. On the basis of this court document and with the cooperation of the police department in Leguan, my other siblings dispossessed Seepersaud from the land. Seepersaud told the police in Leguan he had no papers whatsoever to occupy the land. One month later. Lo and behold! Seepersaud appeared before another judge and says: Eureka, I now have a lease backdated to 2012, good for three years.
(Did he not tell the Leguan Police he had no papers to occupy the land?). Of course the new judge didn’t know the lease was signed by Narine Persaud who died six months ago. The lease was notarized by Narine Persaud’s daughter, Margarie Persaud, in the State of Florida. This lease did not exist up to one month prior to this new injunction hearing before a new judge – but now this judge reversed Judge Ian Chang’s order and the caretaker has now repossessed my father’s lands. This time he is armed with a High Court order.
Stranger courts and Stranger Judges and Lawyers have not been said about another land.
My own attorney Sase Gunraj refused to respond to my emails – he has been paid all sums of money he charged – I do not know if he made representation on my family’s behalf, whether he pointed out to the judge that the lease which did not exist up to one month prior could not possibly be signed by a man who died six months ago, and represented a wholesale fraud.
On the basis of a palpable fraudulent lease, a high court judge reversed an order issued by Chief Justice Ian Chang.
Half a million Guyanese live outside our beloved native land. We can only mourn the death of the rule of law.
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