Oct 30, 2015 News
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack has given the green light for a full blown investigation into the criminal aspect of the contentious Pradoville Two deal.
This is according to Head of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), Dr. Clive Thomas.
Kaieteur News understands that SARU recently wrote the DPP requesting that the matter be investigated and she has since handed over the case to the Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud for further investigations to begin.
Dr. Thomas said that he is pleased with the fact that the DPP’s office has acknowledged SARU’s request and has since acted expeditiously in that regard.
“After our request, the DPP wrote back to me saying that her office is constitutionally mandated to look into the criminal aspect of this case and said that with my permission she would forward it to the Commissioner of Police. I wrote her back saying that we have no objection and this was done,” Dr. Thomas.
In addition to calling on the DPP to investigate the matter, SARU had also put in a formal request at the Ministry of Public Security to probe the criminal aspect of the Pradoville Two deal.
In early October, SARU completed a report which stated that in 2010, the Bharrat Jagdeo Cabinet made a decision authorizing the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to privatize State lands. NICIL is the body tasked with overseeing the privatization of State assets.
It reportedly spent more than $200M to develop the sea front community without the knowledge and blessings of the National Assembly and other relevant bodies.
The said lands were then secretly sold to the former Ministers and known friends and associates of the previous regime. At the time of the sale, the report said, the lands were grossly undervalued and sold at a price substantially below the market value, thereby depriving the state of its full benefits.
SARU said, “There is a direct link between the misconduct and the abuse of powers and duties of their position. The former Cabinet members knew they were doing a wrong in transferring State lands into their names and that of their acquaintances for undervalued market prices for the land. The lands were sold for $114 per square foot at the time.”
“Public officers ought to carry out their duties, not for the benefit of themselves, but for the benefit of the public as a whole. If they neglect or misconduct themselves by their actions in the course of their duties, this may lead to a breach or abuse of the public’s trust. The act of the Cabinet members for their benefit is serious enough to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust.”
In a letter addressed to Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, SARU had said that based on its findings, it is requesting that Ramjattan’s Office proceed to further investigate unlawful aspects of this matter, with the aim of establishing whether criminal action should be instituted.
“It is the duty of this Unit in the Ministry of the Presidency to ensure that no Minister of Government in Guyana would be the beneficiary from any acts of misconduct or unlawful conduct while being holders of Public Office.”
SARU had also informed the Public Security Minister that it has also forwarded its report to the Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, along with a copy of a Legal Opinion on the potential misconduct in Public Office by the former Ministers.
The document on the Legal Opinion says that there is legal scope for the argument of willful neglect by the former ministers in performing their duties without reasonable excuse or facilitation to an extent amounting to an abuse of the public trust.
Further, based on the cases cited, the document outlines that the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, has Legal Standing on this matter.
Once sufficient evidence is gathered by his Chambers, Williams had said that a civil action against the former Cabinet Ministers will be instituted. He had explained to the media that former President Bharrat Jagdeo could face prosecution.
The AG had argued that Jagdeo 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.
The AG also made it clear that he cannot institute charges in this case; 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.
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 had said, “She would have to recuse herself in the determination of the matter.”
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