The High Court has concluded hearing arguments in an application brought by former Minister of Housing Irfaan Ali, who is asking for several fraud charges against him in relation to the controversial Pradoville Two scheme, to be quashed. Following a final hearing yesterday at the High Court in Demerara, Justice Franklin Holder indicated that notices will be sent to the lawyers involved in the case as to when a ruling will be given.
Ali was arrested and slapped with 19 charges in late November last year by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU), an arm of the Guyana Police Force. He was hauled before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan. The former minister is accused of defrauding government of over $174M, by selling several plots of state lands, below the market value, to former ministers of the then PPP/C government.
The charges against Ali stated that between the period 2011 and 2015, he conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government, when he acted recklessly by selling 19 plots of state lands at Plantations Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara. The lands which were sold for a mere $39.8M, are valued at $212.4M, according to SOCU.
He has since been released on self bail. In hearing Ali’s application, Justice Holder granted an order halting the Magistrate’s Court from proceeding with the matters, until a ruling is made by the High Court.
Ali is asking the High Court for an order of Certiorari quashing the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge him with the offence of conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law, on the basis that it was irrational, biased, and influenced by improper considerations and motives. He also wants an order of Certiorari quashing the information of oath of Munilall Persaud, Corporal of Police at SOCU, on the 19 charges.
Further, Ali wants a declaration that the particulars of the charges do not constitute an offence known to law, and that there is no statutory or common law duty to obtain a valuation prior to the sale of the property. Ali is asking the court to issue a declaration that the charges are vague and constitute an abuse of process.
According to SOCU, Ali is accused of ‘grossly underselling’ the 19 plots of state lands to former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon; Luncheon’s wife, Floreen Ramnaught; and former ministers Priya Manickchand, Dr. Jennifer Westford, Robert Persaud and Clement Rohee, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack; former army chief-of-staff Gary Best, and Fortune Developers Inc. Guyana.
Ali is also accused of selling lands to former General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board and daughter of former President Donald Ramotar, Lisaveta Ramotar; former President of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo and the son of former Labour Minister Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Dr. Ghansham Singh; former Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Chief Executive Officer, Rajendra Singh; and former president of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Compton Bourne.
He is also accused of selling lands to Former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission Safraaz Khan; former CEO of Guyana Water Inc, Shaik Baksh; along with George Halla and Dave Narine.
Ali was arrested and charged after a probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), were conducted by accounting firm Ram & McRae, and forwarded to SOCU for investigation.
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