Former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali heads to court on Monday to face 19 fraud charges for allegedly selling several acres of state lands way below the market price to several high ranking public officials. Appeal Court Judge Dawn Gregory yesterday refused to grant a stay of the proceedings before the Magistrates’ Courts.
While the Court of Appeal is yet to hear and determine Ali’s challenge against High Court Judge Franklin Holder’s refusal to grant a stay, Ali is scheduled to appear at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on Monday before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan. Last November, Ali was hauled before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts where the fraud charges were read to him; they were indictable and he was not required to enter a plead
He was granted self bail.
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 Plantation Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara. The lands which were sold for $39.8M, are valued at $212.4M, according to SOCU.
Ali is accused of ‘greatly 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.
Charges against Ali were recommended by SOCU after a forensic audit report was conducted.
It was reported that after five months of investigation, SOCU completed its investigation into the allocation of lands at ‘Pradoville Two’ to Cabinet members of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic Administration and their close associates.
The investigation was part of a larger probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), which was conducted by accounting firm Ram & McRae.
While the minister has considerable powers under the Housing Act, his role in the issuance of titles was well outside of his functions and powers,” the audit report said.
The report added, “No files were maintained by CHPA for any of the plots allocated by a process that can be described as lacking transparency at best. It was stated that of the 28 lots, totalling 12.1187 acres, only 3.9693 acres remain unallocated.
Over two dozen persons, including former president Jagdeo and some of his former ministers were questioned by SOCU officials in the early stages of the investigations.
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