Oct 16, 2015 News
– Attorney General
Once sufficient information and evidence is gathered by his Chambers, then Attorney General,
Basil Williams may institute a civil action against former Cabinet ministers. And former President Bharrat Jagdeo
could face prosecution, said Attorney General Basil Williams. He may be immune from prosecution for certain decisions he may have taken as president, provided these were legal actions.
Misappropriating state lands may not be within his purview, Williams said.
Questions on this front have been overwhelming. SARU confirmed with this newspaper Wednesday night that former President Bharrat Jagdeo is not exempt from the charges.
Adding his opinion on the matter, Williams said, “Yes the Constitution does provide immunity for him but it is a question of interpretation. Already we have had cases where they (Presidents) can justify their decision if they are acting within their powers, but if they acted outside of their powers then they cannot be protected.”
He continued, “The Constitution does say something to this effect about his immunity but it is all a question of interpretation in the courts. Even though you have power, you have to exercise it judiciously. And if you operate outside of it and you do so excessively, then you lose that protection.”
The Minister of Legal Affairs said that the only action that can be brought by his chambers on this matter is a civil action of misfeasance in Public Office, and once he is satisfied with it what they have gathered to make their case, his chambers will act accordingly.
“Once I find that we have sufficient evidence and I believe we have , then we will pursue the case because we have former ministers who knew that they were buying state lands at an undervalued price and then sold it for a profit,” said Williams.
Yesterday, he said that he is sure that there is sufficient evidence to support a common law charge of misfeasance in public office. The charge would stem from their involvement in the Pradoville Two deal back in 2010.
He added, “Ministers must know that they’re in an office of trust and they’re supposed to use their office for the benefit of the public and the state. They cannot be involved in an exercise that would undermine the rights of the state and cause the state to suffer loss or damage, and certainly when it comes to land they must know the value of those lands.”
A report by the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) was forwarded to him earlier this week. The damning report recommended criminal charges for several former Cabinet Ministers who served under the Jagdeo-led administration. Commenting on the report, Williams said that the Pradoville Two deal is a clear case where former ministers obtained prime land at an undervalued price and then resold it for huge profits.
He said that the very nature of this situation is on par with others from the UK and Belize as outlined in the SARU report. He said, “It is a case where they used their office to profit unlawfully and at the expense of the state.”
Williams said that while the law may state that individuals could have brought the case of misfeasance in public office before the court, the Caribbean Court of Justice extends that power from individuals to the AG.
“So the AG could bring such an action but also criminal charges could be laid and that is misconduct in public office. That would be swifter while the civil side would take a while.”
The AG also made it clear that he cannot institute charges in this case as the person constitutionally empowered to do so is the DPP. He noted that while the Guyana Police Force can also institute such charges, should it act without the advice of the DPP, then she also has the power to intervene and take over the prosecutions started by the police.
“SARU sent its findings and I would recommend that it be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. That would be for the criminal side.”
The SARU report however lists the DPP, Miss Shalimar Ali-Hack as a beneficiary of the controversial Pradoville Two deal. The report said that on September 7, 2011, the DPP bought Lot 184 Sparendaam, ECD, Block IV, which is 0.2767 acres of land.
Asked how this looming situation of conflict of interest would be dealt with, Williams said, “She would have to recuse herself in the determination of the matter.”
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