Dec 10, 2015 News
Police investigators have now secured potential evidence in the matter involving the controversial allocation and sale of prime seaside property at Sparendaam to themselves by former President Bharrat Jagdeo and a number
The police are carrying out investigations based on the recommendations of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), headed by Professor Clive Thomas.
The investigation had been stalled after the police were advised by their Legal Advisor Justice Claudette Singh to seek clarification on several aspects of the matter.
Last evening, Professor Thomas explained the sequence of events that have so far occurred with regard to the status of the matter.
He said that the SARU first sent its recommendation to the Director of Public Prosecution, who then forwarded it to the police for them to conduct investigations.
The police investigators then consulted with Justice Singh who advised them to seek some clarification from the SARU, since they were not provided with an actual file of potential evidence.
This was subsequently done and according to Professor Thomas that process was finalized earlier this week.
“The police did come to us to see what evidence we have….to the best of my knowledge, the evidence was provided,” Professor Thomas told Kaieteur News.
SARU was appointed by the David Granger administration to retrieve properties believed stolen or acquired through illegal means by government officials.
The case of the Sparendaam property, known as Pradoville 2, located on East Coast Demerara, was the first major one to have charges recommended by SARU.
There has been impatience with the pace of investigations under the new administration which had vowed to investigate all reports of corrupt transactions that allegedly took place under Jagdeo’s rule.
While there have been questions over what charges are likely and whether Jagdeo has presidential immunity, legal experts have also not ruled out civil actions.
The Pradoville 2 deal itself had raised eyebrows as the property was not opened for ordinary citizens to have a shot at acquiring.
SARU’s report last month noted that in 2010, the Jagdeo Cabinet made a decision authorizing the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, (NICIL), to privatize state lands. NICIL, during the tenure of the People’s Progressive Party government, became tasked with overseeing the privatization of state assets.
It reportedly spent more than $200M to develop the seaside 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 substantially below the market value thereby depriving the state of its full benefits.
Jagdeo himself paid only $9.8M, for two acres of lands that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.
SARU argued that the former Ministers could be held liable for misconduct in public office and in the absence of legislation for the unit, that the Attorney General, Basil Williams, may institute proceedings against the former Ministers.
The unit said that the actions of the former Cabinet Ministers have shown that they willfully neglected to perform their duties without reasonable excuse or justification to such an extent that it amounted to an abuse of the public trust in the office holders, hence its belief that criminal charges are indeed warranted.
In 2010, Jagdeo was sold 1.5 acres of land, Block III, Parcel 246 Lot 246 Plantation Goedverwagting and 0.4603 acres, Block III, Parcel 241.
Former Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, was sold Lot 239 Goedverwagting, Block III, which is 0.3030 acres. The report noted that on September 20, 2011 the land was transferred to Kamini Persaud and Robert Persaud Jnr. The land with the house was then sold on September 18, 2014 to LSR Inc. Company for $90M. LSR’s public records indicate that its Secretary and Director is Andrew Pollard.
Also benefitting was former Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford, who was sold a Lot 238 Goedverwagting, Block III; former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, was sold Block IV, parcel 176. She later sold the property to one Dave Naraine on February 21, 2013 for $100M.
Other beneficiaries included Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack; former Head of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookoo; former Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon; PPP General Secretary and former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee; former Labour Minister and Dr. Nanda Gopaul.
The lands were transferred to the persons on various conditions- one of which included that the transferee shall not be at liberty to sell, lease, transfer or part with possession of the said property within ten years of transfer without the written consent of the Minister responsible for Housing.
According to the SARU report, however, Manickchand sold her land three years after purchasing it and she did so without written permission from the CH&PA, thereby breaching the conditions.
Persaud also breached the conditions, SARU said.
Given the history and nature of the deal, SARU, believed that it has a strong case for the former Ministers to be charged with misconduct in public office.
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