…warns of possible conduit for Govt. corruption
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday estimated that the treasury has lost $85 billion through the decisions of the Attorney General Chambers to settle ‘winnable’ court cases brought against the state, some of which have been pending for several years.
“By now they would have settled cases that could potentially lead to about $85 billion of liabilities to the treasury. Already we are paying all of that,” Jagdeo told a press conference.
Under the current Attorney General, Basil Williams, the State paid several billions of dollars out as a result of in, and out of court settlements. Most of these cases were inherited from the previous People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) administration. But in most instances, it is either that the government loses the case or decides to settle even before it goes to court.
The most recent case that surfaced publicly was the out of court settlement with Guyana Tractor Equipment (Guytrac), causing the State to pay $226M. Jagdeo cited the settlement with Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) which he said cost the state about $80B.
Last month the court ordered Government to pay Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) $1.7B in damages.
Jagdeo noted that in the 23 years of the PPP administration all the settlements amounted to about $2B.
“I wonder if people are benefiting financially from all of these settlements by claiming lack of knowledge? I am just saying I wonder. I probably should say I am confident, but I am saying I wonder now that it is a conduit for corrupt activities; these big judgments,” Jagdeo stated.
Although the cases continue to cost the state billions, it wasn’t until recently that the Attorney General Chambers made the critical decisions to take control of all the existing court cases against the State by placing an advertisement in the local newspaper.
The Advertisement read, “The Attorney General’s Chambers hereby requests that all Attorneys-at-law in receipt/possession and/or making representations on or behalf of the Chambers not authorized by the current Attorney General do immediately notify the Chambers of the said matters. You are asked to give a written report to the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senior Counsel Basil Williams S.C M.P regarding the status of each case for which you have conducted…”
Jagdeo criticised Williams for only now seeking information on the cases against the State.
“Why didn’t he put this out three years ago? If anyone is worth his salt or even a one percent level of competence, when you go to a desk you would say to the staff can you find out for me all the cases we have outstanding so that I could be apprised of the cases outstanding,” Jagdeo asserted.
The Opposition Leader suggested that Williams could have gotten the information he now seeks from former Attorney General Anil Nandlall or the staff at the Chambers.
Jagdeo stated that the cases were also in the public domain as they were reported in the newspaper. He stated that he offered to brief President David Granger about the cases shortly after the coalition Government came to power in 2015.
“They ignored the offer. He didn’t find out and then he blames the PPP every time there is a ruling against him,” Jagdeo stated.
Further, Jagdeo pushed back against the assertion made by Government of being unaware of the cases against the State. He said information suggests that the AG held discussions with TPL on the court matter after the government changed.
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