– after advising brother to purchase shares
As Head of the State‘s privatisation unit – the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited, (NICIL),–Winston Bra
ssington was privy to several transactions between Government, private individuals and companies.
Testifying in a libel suit, he brought against Kaieteur News, the former Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) of NICIL told the Court that he was knowledgeable of the sale of Government‘s 20% shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) company, the Marriott Hotel project, the acquisition of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) lands by businessman Ed Ahmad, the sale of the Sanata Texile Complex, the Fip Motielall construction of Amaila Falls project, and the Berbice River Bridge.
However, it was the transaction, which involved NICIL, his brother Jonathan, and Hand-in-Hand Trust that was the source for which Brassington was grilled by defence counsel, Nigel Hughes.
In 2014, Kaieteur News was sued repeatedly for publishing what the newspapers labeled as irregularities in the transactions involving the former CEO of NICIL.
Brassington especially took offence the newspaper’s satirical piece, DEM BOYS SEH, which he believes referenced him as a “fat crook.”
At the continuation of the libel trial yesterday, Brassington testified via audio video link (SKYPE) before Justice Navindra Singh at the Georgetown High Court about his role in the purchase of shares by his brother, Jonathan Brassington, from Hand-in-Hand Trust; a company in which the government (NICIL) had acquired a minority share.
Confronted with several questions, Brassington denied there was any conflict of interest on his part.
He admitted however that as CEO of Government’s privatisation unit, he was privy to information about the intention of Hand-in-Hand Trust to sell some of its shares.
The plaintiff admitted to advising his brother on purchasing the shares after he learnt of the latter’s interest in the Trust company.
The witness recalled that his brother had approached him about buying the shares after it was advertised that Hand-in Hand Trust was seeking investors.
At the time, Brassington said he was CEO of NICIL.
Asked about his involvement in the transaction, the witness told the court, however, that at the time he had nothing to do with NICIL. Brassington claimed while NICIL had an integral role in the transaction, he had recused himself from the deal but this was only after advising his brother on the purchase.
The witness was not clear nonetheless in whose interest he was working.
“Would you agree with me that at the time of the sale of the share to your brother, you were still the CEO of NICIL?” Hughes asked.
“Yes, I was,” said Brassington.
“At the time of the transaction, you were also representing the interest of your brother. Is that correct?”
“And were you aware at that time that your brother’s majority acquisition of shares in Hand-in- Hand could have diminished Government’s minority shares in the company?” Hughes asked.
“My brother never acquired a majority share in the company, “Brassington replied in disagreement.
He later admitted that his brother had acquired a 30% of Hand- in -Hand shares – a figure, which was much higher than Government’s share in the company.
Brassington was adamant, though, that he did not believe that his brother’s acquisition of shares diminished the Government’s interest.
Hughes then questioned whether NICIL on behalf of the government had been offered the opportunity to purchase the shares before involving the third party buyer – Brassington‘s brother.
The lawyer explained to the Court that his line of questioning had to do with what is regarded as the norm of selling interests in a company.
Hughes noted that it is the shareholders who are already involved in a company that usually gets the option to purchase the shares before they are offered to an outside buyer. Hughes suggested, too, that the sale should have been advertised publicly.
His suggestions were met by objections from Brassington’s lawyer, Timothy Jonas.
Hughes also sought from the former CEO whether he solicited any legal advice about a conflict of interest as it relates his representation of NICIL and his brother.
In subsequent responses to the questions, Brassington told the Court that he had recused himself from the transaction.
Asked whether he had any documentation to prove he recused himself, Brassington said that he did not keep such information.
“I don’t have anything in writing but I know what I did,” Brassington added. He then subscribed to suggestions by the lawyer that there must be some written notice to the NICIL’s Board.
He claimed that the Attorney General and the secretary of NICIL‘s Board of Directors, Marcia Nadir-Sharma would be privy to correspondence regarding his decision to recuse himself.
Further questions, which suggested conflict of interest were later met with objections from Jonas who noted that the suggestions were not relevant to the evidence before the Court.
Hughes went on to ask the witness whether as a shareholder of NICIL he was notified of Government‘s dispossession in the sale of the share.
The lawyer asked Brassington whether he was aware of any intention to purchase the shares by Government.
“And are you aware of the drag along/tag along clause…meaning that if a purchaser takes the bigger shares in a company that purchaser tends to drag or tag the minority shareholder with him which in this case, the minority was the Government?” Hughes specified.
Brassington had no response.
He remained silent as his attorney made no objections on the grounds that there was no justification for the questions since there was no such reference to the issues in the bundle of evidence before the court. Hughes asked the court for time to file the additional affidavits.
After hearing the contentions raised by Jonas and reasons proffered by Hughes, the Judge deferred the trial.
Hughes was granted one week to file additional documents and the proceedings were put down to July 1.
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