It is officially over a year since investigations started into the Pradoville Two case and a strong case is yet to be crafted. This was confirmed
by officials attached to the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU).
SARU’s Chief Executive Officer, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer, said that his Unit is taking the lead in investigations into the criminal aspect of the case while SOCU is providing whatever support is needed along the way.
The SARU official said, “Work is ongoing in this matter. This case has a criminal aspect and a civil one. We are looking at the latter. With regard to the criminal aspect, it was known by now that investigators had to get the valuations for the lands at Sparendaam.
“These were sold to officials with strong ties to the former regime. But even after this was secured, SOCU is still without a strong case.”
Retemyer said that plaguing the criminal side of the case for SARU is securing statements from persons within the various agencies that would have been involved in the Pradoville Two scheme.
He said, “We were able to get the valuations of the lands but SOCU was subsequently advised that there were still other requirements. They are still to get corresponding statements from government agencies that are implicated in the entire scandal.”
The anticorruption advocate continued, “These agencies include the Central Housing and Planning Authority, Lands and Surveys Commission and the Deeds Registry.
I believe SOCU has about 60 persons that it has taken statements from. We are still putting together a strong case for the civil and criminal aspect.”
SPECIAL PROSECUTION TEAM
It was in October that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, disclosed that the APNU+AFC Government agreed for there to be a special team which would be established to ensure the prosecution of criminal offences arising from the sale of land at the ‘Pradoville 2’ scheme.
Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, was tasked with putting together the special prosecution team and was supposed to submit the names to Cabinet during the first week in November.
Williams, yesterday, refused to confirm the existence of the team much less to provide a name of one of the investigators which he was tasked with putting together. He asked that the questions be forwarded to Minister Harmon.
“Let Harmon tell you if they got a team. I am not going to confirm that.”
Even though the Minister of State was unreachable yesterday, Kaieteur News was able to confirm with several Cabinet Ministers that Williams did submit a list of names but it has not been confirmed in its entirety.
This newspaper was also informed that the team has taken some form but is yet to begin advising SOCU or much less take it over in full.
THE PRADOVILLE CASE
In early October 2015, 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 to 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.”
The Department of the Ministry of the Presidency said that 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.”
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