Investigators’ attempts to speak to former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, in the ongoing probe of
the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), will not be straightforward. Rather, the investigators will have to go through his lawyer, former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall. That is, if Nandlall has his way.
The lawyer, who himself was charged following SOCU’s investigations into 15 Commonwealth Law Reports that he has in his possession, yesterday wrote the unit. He said he is the attorney-at-law for the former Finance Minister, a one-time colleague in the Cabinet of Ministers under the Donald Ramotar administration.
“Although my client is out of the jurisdiction, he always was and remains accessible, ready, able and willing to provide all, or any information at his disposal which your Unit may require,” Nandlall said in his letter yesterday to SOCU.
The letter was released to media houses.
Nandlall went further: “In the circumstances, please feel free to contract me for any information you may require from, or questions you may wish to ask of my client.”
The letter was addressed to Lt. Colonel Sydney James, Head of SOCU, and copied to the Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud.
James and head of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU), Aubrey Retemyer, reportedly travelled to Florida earlier this week to talk to Winston Brassington, former head of NICIL. It is unclear whether the investigators were moving to bring back Brassington to Guyana.
Brassington is now working in that US state. He reportedly moved there since late 2015, months after the Coalition Government took office and had ordered a number of forensic audits to be conducted, including into NICIL’s operations.
NICIL is the state agency that overlooks investments and privatizations for the Government and under the previous administration. The former Finance Minister was an integral part of the Board of Directors.
Together, the two (Singh and Brassington) would have overseen several transactions, worth billions, that SOCU is now investigating.
The forensic audit report in NICIL had highlighted several transactions, including the Pradoville Two sale of lands to former government officials and their relatives; the construction of a High Street building at a cost of several hundred million dollars and the sale of two Duke Street properties to businessman, Gerry Gouveia, among others.
Investigators would also want to talk to Brassington about billions of dollars in dividends from state companies that NICIL collected and proceeds from the sale of scores of state properties.
Brassington, who would have also overseen the building of the Berbice Bridge and the troubled Marriott Hotel, is said to be a permanent resident of the US, and not a citizen.
Singh is said to be working in the US – either Washington or New York, in a major financial institution.
The administration, while in Opposition, had insisted that billions of dollars were siphoned off and not accounted for, because of the deals, with the country’s best interests not taken care of.
Several former government ministers and officials and even ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, have been hauled in for questioning by SOCU.
The Opposition has denied wrongdoing and has accused the administration of being on a campaign of witch-hunting.
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