…as SOCU recommends charges for Brassington and Ashni Singh and others
The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has completed its Pradoville 2 investigations and has
sent that file to the police legal adviser (PLA) recommending that 12 persons be charged.
Among the 12 recommended for charges are former Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh; and former head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington.
According to a well placed source the files were sent to the PLA, Rtd. Justice Claudette Singh. However, Justice Singh is still to make a decision on the matter.
But Justice Singh has said she has not seen any files in relation to the Pradoville 2 probe. She explained that the files could have been sent but have to go through certain channels before they get to her.
According to the source while SOCU can recommend charges it is left to the legal opinion of Justice Singh to determine if the charges are strong enough to be laid. The source said that it is important that the files be properly studied so that the correct decision is arrived at.
Further the source said that although SOCU has its own position on the investigation the PLA has to determine if there is sufficient evidence of criminality to warrant a charge.
The source noted that it is the same benchmark that the police (SOCU) are guided by when they make their recommendation to the PLA.
With the recommendation for Singh and Brassington to be charged, the police will have issues making that a reality since both men are no longer living in Guyana. Brassington now lives in Miami Florida and Singh is said to be working in Washington. Initial reports had placed him in the oil rich country of Dubai.
Brassington was at the helm at NICIL when the controversial Pradoville 2 scheme was conceptualized. There were whispers among Government members that the former head has a lot to answer for in relation to the Sparendaam Scheme.
The contention was and still is that the lands that were sold to former government ministers and close friends of the PPP/C administration was seriously undervalued.
Ashni Singh was the Minister of Finance at the infancy stage of the project and is believed to be a recipient of one of those plots overlooking the sea.
Prior to stepping down in November 2011, at the end of his constitutional two terms in office, Jagdeo and his administration decided to build a community for himself, his ministers and friends, but stumbled on a big problem.
Sitting on the land was a huge transmitting tower belonging to the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN).
A decision was taken to move the tower to Dairy Road, La Parafaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara.
NICIL reportedly paid over $100M to take down the tower and build the new transmitting facility and charge the expense to NCN.
Significant sums from the state were spent also on the construction of roads, drainage network and other works at Pradoville 2. The developed house lots, complete with infrastructure, were then sold below market value to Jagdeo, several ministers and Government officials and friends.
There is no evidence that the house lots sale was advertised or what procedures were used in the allocations of the parcels of the ocean front properties.
There are also no details of whether the recipients were owners of properties at the time. If they were, they would have been barred from buying the lands under regulations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority.
There are several other investigations, spurred by other forensic audits, and conducted by SOCU, that are ongoing.
Some other former government officials are currently facing the courts.
According to details of the Pradoville 2 allocations, Jagdeo received two parcels equivalent to two acres.
On it, he built an imposing mansion, complete with swimming pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
He paid a total of $9.8M. He had already owned a property along the Ogle Airport Road in the community that was known as ‘Pradoville One’. However, he is claiming that he sold that property to Trinidadian advertising executive, Ernie Ross.
There is no confirmation whether the former President paid the Capital Gains tax on the profits he made on sale of the mansion or whether the 10-year timeframe had passed in which he could have sold the property.
In effect, Jagdeo and his Pradoville 2 colleagues paid three times less than what ordinary citizens in the Diamond and Grove Housing Schemes, East Bank Demerara would have been required to fork out.
Jagdeo paid $114 per square foot for the Pradoville 2 parcels; the ordinary citizens paid $317 per square foot for their plots while remigrants paid more than ten times the price Jagdeo paid for the same size house lot. They paid $1,111 per square foot.
Other beneficiaries included Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack; former Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford; Compton Bourne, former Head of the Caribbean Development Bank and UG Chancellor; and Florrie Loretta Ramnauth.
Ali-Hack and her husband, Moeen ul Hack, a top figure in the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG), paid $1,488,744 for a piece of land.
Former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee; former GWI boss, Sheik Baksh and former Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, also received lots, paying just over $1.5M each.
So too did former Army Chief, Rear Admiral Gary Best and sacked Chief Executive Officer of the embattled Guyana Sugar Corporation, Dr. Rajendra Singh.
Also named in the list were Andrew Bishop, former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission; Safraaz Khan and George Hallaq, said to be the country’s former Middle East envoy, and a company called Future Developers International Guyana Inc.
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