Oct 29, 2020 News
Prime State lands giveaway…
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s State Lands Act clearly stipulates that whenever State lands are leased, the lease agreement must indicate that the lessee “SHALL NOT” part with lands (possession) or “SHALL NOT” assign the interest in the said agreement without the consent of the State.
It states too that in the event that there is going to be a transfer to a third party, the State reserves to right to step in and repossess the lands, reverting ownership back to the State.
However, that very clause was altered in a large number of National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) lease agreements currently at the center of investigations concerning the large-scale giveaway of prime State lands located at Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara.
In reviewing the lease agreements in contention, Guyana’s Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, pointed out that the lease was altered to say that “the the lessee may divest the land, may part with possession, may assign it to a third-party interest” – an insertion that saw hundreds of prime lands being resold and transferred with the State acquiring zero revenue from the transactions.
According to the AG, “These are lands that are valued millions of US dollars and have been gifted away by leases and or by title for pepper corn consideration meaning nothing compared to what they are actually valued.”
“When you look at other NICIL leases, that clause is different, differently worded, its worded in the proper way, it’s supposed to be ‘may not without the permission of the lessor’, and herein lies the conspiracy,” the AG explained.
Both NICIL and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), the AG added, were used as the platform to give away state property “in the most capricious, the most arbitrary and the most non-transparent manner.”
With the ongoing review, the AG said, several integral facts that should be on record are nowhere to be found.
According to Nandlall, there was no due process involved in the awards of the lands. He said, “There is no public process whereby members of the public would have been invited to either express an interest or put in a bid or make an offer to buy lands, none at all. So one does not know how the persons who actually benefited became aware that the lands were available for divestment.”
In addition to this, the AG pointed out that there was no evidence of principle governing how the prices for the lands were determined. He noted too that there was no valuation certificate on record or no market value assessment “so, one does not know how a particular price was arrived at for these lands.”
“There appears to be no principles governing how much will be paid down and when the balance will be paid,” the AG continued “because you have lands that are valued $600 million, that’s the purchase price – how they arrived at the purchase price remains a mystery – but $500,000 is paid down and possession is given to the purchaser. There are cases where not a single cent is paid down and title is granted to the purchasers. That is the extent of the whim, caprice and, I daresay, corruption that permeates these transactions.”
Even worse, the AG noted, the lands were divested from the original recipient to third parties. Further, the AG added that the transactions speak to “organised crime.”
“If this is not wrongdoing then I am not sure,” he said, adding, “I cannot imagine how a person can pay US$11,000 which by itself is a great undervalue for the land and that’s a shell company for all we know and the lease is altered and does not reflect the standard provisions in state land leases which allows strangely or coincidentally the lessee to divest and the lessee divest and does not divest for more but for $100. Obviously, you have money laundering implications, you have fraud.”
Thousands of files, Nandlall said have been passed to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to ensure that the guilty parties are brought to justice.
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