Oct 17, 2015 News
The Pradoville 2 lands, sold to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and several Ministers of the previous administration were undervalued by almost 2,000 per cent. They were sold at $114 per square foot. Independent appraisals have pegged the price closer to $2,250 per square feet.
The State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) has completed a report into the conversion of some 15 acres of land at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (ECD). The probe found that key members of the past administration were involved in transferring state lands to their names and that of their acquaintances for undervalued market prices.
The independent appraisal was conducted against 10 acres of land on which the Georgetown Marriott was built.
While that land was actually sold to Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) for $200M, an audit into that transaction had valued that tract of land to be worth some $980M.
This converts to $2,250 per square feet of the prime ocean front lands.
The Pradoville 2 land is located along the same strip of Guyana’s coastland, a few miles eastward.
At a rate of $114 this would mean that Government would only earn a meager $74.5M for the entire 15 acres of land set aside at Pradoville 2.
Had government sold the land at the market value—as appraised by independent evaluators—it could have earned a $1.4B.
This figure also excludes the almost $300M which was plugged into developing the project, monies expended by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
According to the report prepared by SARU, the land at Sparendaam, ECD, was once deemed Communal Lands and was thereafter owned by Demerara Sugar Estates prior to independence. The report states further that after independence in 1966 the land was owned by the state until 2010 when the Central Planning and Housing Authority (CHPA) privatized the land which was then sold to a number of former ministers and associates of the Jagdeo/Ramotar regime.
Prior to being sold in 2010 the land was under the direct control of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and the Guyana Television Station (GTV) which were later merged to form the National Communications Network (NCN).
SARU found that in 2007, NICIL was asked to facilitate the Ogle Airport Expansion programme, which “indicated that the tower on the land was interfering with the flight path. The tower was therefore relocated.”
This was done at a cost of $188M, an expenditure which was years later, reflected in the financial records of NCN as an investment.
NICIL also prepared a number of feasibility studies at the behest of Cabinet in 2010 for the lands to be privatized.
An additional $200M was also spent by NICIL preparing the land for its eventual sale.
Among the beneficiaries of the sale was former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, who obtained the largest plot of land.
Others, according to SARU, are Robert Persaud, the former Natural Resources Minister and Priya Manickchand, former Education Minister, both of whom have since been accused of reselling their lands in contravention of the agreement under which the lands were transferred.
Persaud reportedly transferred the title to a relative before making a lucrative sale, netting some $99M while Manickchand sold hers for $100M.
Others said to be in receipt of lands under the now controversial arrangement includes People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Clement Rohee, himself a former Government Minister; Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Ali-Hack; former Army Chief Gary Best and Future Developers Inc., among others.
SARU has since suggested that the former ministers could be held liable for misconduct in public office and in the absence of the requisite legislation, “The Attorney General may institute proceedings against the Former Ministers.
Attorney General, Basil Williams, has since said, “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.”
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 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.
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