Former President and Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, yesterday refused to cooperate with investigators of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in connection with ‘Pradoville Two’ probe.
Jagdeo arrived at 14:00 hours at SOCU’s office at Camp Road accompanied by former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, and other People’s Progressive Party (PPP) officials.
After speaking with reporters, Jagdeo was greeted at the entrance to the compound by Head of SOCU, Sydney James, before he was grilled by a team of investigators that included advisor to SOCU, British crime expert, Dr. Sam Sittlington.
Kaieteur News understands that Jagdeo faced questions about the transfer of lands at Sparendaam to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), a road contract in the community to Atlantic Construction for $13.7M and the authorisation by the then Cabinet to have the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) handle the transactions.
The session lasted for about 20 minutes.
Nandlall told reporters that the former President invoked the Constitutional provisions where the Executive President of Guyana is immune from answering any questions about acts done or decisions made while he is acting in that capacity.
“The questions related to when Mr. Jagdeo was the President and was the Chairman of Cabinet and as such we invoked that article that immunizes him from any legal process whatsoever,” Nandlall stated.
In the past few days, investigators questioned senior officials who were part of Jagdeo’s cabinet in 2010.
The probe relates to lands which were converted into an exclusive community cynically dubbed Pradoville Two. The plots were sold, allegedly, below market value to mainly Government Ministers and others, who were handpicked by Jagdeo and his Cabinet.
State monies were used to develop the lands under questionable circumstances, SOCU is contending.
Jagdeo, who owns a mansion in Pradoville 2, said that he willingly met with investigators for one purpose and that was to establish precedence where constitutional office holders are questioned by SOCU.
“I would have refused to come here, but I did not want to because I’m looking forward to the future investigations that we will have and there will be many of them because we have a ton of issues because this [Coalition] Government at the level of the Cabinet has acted illegally,” Jagdeo noted.
Further, he noted that there are other matters that the PPP plans to file with SOCU and they expect that President David Granger and his Cabinet members will be invited to face questions at SOCU.
Jagdeo sought to walk back the reason advanced by former Minister Robeson Benn that Pradoville 2 was established for security reasons. This claim has been debunked since two former Ministers sold their properties shortly after construction.
“That was never discussed by Cabinet. Robeson said this was an aside. This was his view and he confirmed to me. He never said that in SOCU and that was his view…personally. If it were a security, I would not have gone to live there at the back next to the seawall where the gunmen can easily hide at the seawall and shoot at you,” Jagdeo stated.
He said questions related to the reason for the establishment of the community and other related matters will be part of the defence when charges are laid.
The Pradoville 2 lands sold to Jagdeo and several Ministers of the previous administration were undervalued by almost 2,000 percent. They were sold at $114 per square foot. Independent appraisals have pegged the price closer to $2,250 per square feet.
At a rate of $114 per square foot, this would mean that Government would only earn a meager $74.5M for the entire 15 acres of land set aside at Pradoville 2.
Had government sold the land at the market value—as appraised by independent evaluators—it could have earned a whopping $1.4B.
This figure excludes the almost $300M, which was plugged into developing the project, monies expended by NICIL.
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