May 09, 2018 News
By: Tiana Cole
Two of the highest ranking officials of the previous People Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government were yesterday slapped with charges for Misconduct in Public Office. They were each granted $6M bail.
Former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and former head of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington, who were both said to be out of the country, were facing possible arrest warrants.
However, they flew in and made their appearances before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
Shorty after 13:00 hrs and the two made their way into the Court compound.
In the courtroom, the men, one dressed in a suit and the other in a shirt jack, were told by the court orderly to stand in the prisoners’ dock.
The Magistrate read three charges to each of them.
Representing the men are former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who himself is facing a larceny charge which was brought against him by the Special Organized Crime unit (SOCU) for the alleged theft of 15 Lexis Nexis Law Reports of the Commonwealth.
The other lawyers representing the duo are Stanley Moore, Ronald Burch-Smith, Mark Waldron, Sase Gunraj, Priya Manickhand, Marcia Nadir Sharma and Euclin Gomes.
The courtroom was filled with supporters, among them former President Donald Ramotar and former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds. There were several other officials of the PPP/C government.
The two men were not required to plead to the indictable charges.
The first charge alleged that Dr. Ashni Singh, being and performing duties of Minister of Finance, and Chairman of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, a company owned by the Government of Guyana; and Brassington being and performing duties as the Chief Executive of NICIL, on May 14, 2011 at Lot 126 Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, sold a tract of land being 10.002 acres of Plantation Turkeyen, East Coast of Demerara, property of the State of Guyana for the sum of $185,037,000, without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.
It is further alleged that Dr. Ashni Singh, and Winston Brassington on December 30, 2008 at Lot 126 Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, by way of Agreement of Sale and Purchase without due diligence, sold to Scady Business Corporation, a 4.7 acres tract portion of Plantation Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, for $150M knowing that the said property was valued at $340M by Rodrigues Architects Associate, a competent valuation officer.
The last allegation against the two stated that Dr. Ashni Singh, and Brassington on December 28, 2009 at 126 Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, by way of Agreement of Sale and Purchase, acted recklessly when they sold to National Hardware Guyana Limited a tract of land at Plantation Liliendaal, Pattensen and Turkeyen, situated on the East Coast of Demerara, being 103 acres, being property of the State of Guyana for the sum of $598,659,398 (VAT exclusive) without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.
After the charges were read, Nandlall made an application before the court to have the Administration of Justice Act (AJA) applied.
This Act will allow Brassington and Singh to be tried summarily.
This application was met with objections from SOCU prosecutor, Trenton Lake, who indicated that investigations are still ongoing. Prosecutor Lake stated that he is not ready to disclose statements in the matter and that by applying the AJA; he will be compelled to do so.
Petitioning for his clients to be released on self bail, Nandlall told the court that none of them are flight risk.
But the SOCU Prosecutor contended that both Brassington and Singh have sufficient means of finance, and as such, should be granted bail in a substantial amount.
The Chief Magistrate subsequently granted bail in the sum of $6M to each of them. Nandlall’s request for a bail reduction was shut down by the Chief Magistrate.
In his address to the court, Nandlall contested that the charges against his client “are an expression of political victimization. It is unfortunate that the administration of justice is being contaminated.”
He added that the charges against his clients are the first of its kind in Guyana.
Declaring that he has no judicial guidance in the form of precedence, Nandlall said that his clients are liable to a term of one year imprisonment if they are convicted by the court.
The two men were then sent through the prisoners chute and into the court lock-up. While in the lock-up, the other prisoners began shouting “Fresh meat is here.”
The two then spent about 15 minutes in the lock-up before they were released. Brassington and Singh after posting bail engaged a small group of protestors who were outside the courtyard.
While there, they told the media that they did nothing wrong and that the evidence will speak for itself and in time they will be vindicated. Brassington and Singh will make their next court appearance on June 5, when they are likely to face more charges.
Charges were recommended against the two after SOCU completed the Pradoville 2 investigations and sent files to the police Legal Advisor who recommended charges for 12 individuals.
With charges being laid against the two, 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, D. C.
Initial reports had placed him in the oil rich country of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Brassington was at the helm at NICIL when the controversial Pradoville 2 Scheme was conceptualized.
There were whispers among Government officials that the former head has a lot to answer for in relation to the Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara housing scheme.
The contention was and still is that the lands sold to former Government ministers and close friends of the PPP/C administration were 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.
NICIL reportedly paid over $100M to take down the tower and build the new transmitting facility and charged the expense to the National Communication Network (NCN).
Charges have already been laid against several other Government officials who served under the previous government, for malpractice in public office.
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