Jan 26, 2021 News
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – Former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, and former General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), Rawlston Adams, were yesterday charged for defrauding the DHBC of over $160M.
Patterson and Adams made their first appearance in the Georgetown Magistrates Court yesterday. The matter was first sent to Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan, but she recused herself from the matter since both Patterson and Adams are known to her.
The matter was then transferred to Senior Magistrate, Leron Daly, who read the joint charge to the defendants. Patterson is being represented by attorneys-at-law, Ronald Burch-Smith and Nigel Hughes, while Adams is being represented by attorney-at-law, Glenn Hanoman.
The duo is charged for defrauding the DHBC in relation to a contract that was awarded to a Dutch company, LievenseCSO, to conduct a feasibility study and design for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge between Houston, East Bank Demerara, and Versailles, West Bank Demerara.
Patterson and Adams were not required to plead to the joint charge, which alleged that between November 18, 2016 and February 1, 2018 at Georgetown, they conspired with each other and with other persons unknown, to defraud the DHBC of $162,635,015, funds of the DHBC, Asphalt Plant Account.
The charge was brought by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU), a branch of the Guyana Police Force (GPF). There is an ongoing probe by SOCU in relation to Patterson’s role in sole-sourcing the Dutch company that was selected to conduct the feasibility study.
After the contract was made public in 2017, the then Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had called for a thorough investigation by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) into the awarding of the contract to the Dutch firm, this later triggered an investigation by SOCU.
The PPC in its investigation found that Patterson’s request to Cabinet for approval of the contract was not forwarded through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). As a result, the PPC had asked for the tender to be reset. NPTAB had given approval for the project to be retendered, but it was not.
The PPP/C was adamant that the bypassing of the procurement process was illegal, but SOCU later stated that it had sought legal advice, and that there is no evidence that a criminal offence was committed.
Recently, SOCU reopened the case and on Friday last, Patterson and Adams were called in for questioning by SOCU and the charge was later instituted.
Senior Magistrate Daly granted both defendants bail in the sum of $200,000 each and the matter was adjourned to February 15, 2021.
Meanwhile, outside of the court compound, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, and other members of the opposition were seen standing holding placards in support of Patterson.
Some of the statements on the placards were, “Patto deliver, Edghill a failure,” “Enough is enough” and “DPP protects PPP,” which they chanted repeatedly.
After the matter was finished, Adams and his lawyer, Hanoman, refused to give a comment while Hughes told reporters that he believes that the charges are political in nature rather than “legal jurisprudence.”
Hughes said, “the background of this allegation is that a foreign government approached the Government of Guyana, specifically an agency of the Ministry that Mr. Patterson headed, expressing their interest in providing services to the Government of Guyana on the feasibility of the Demerara Bridge.” Hughes added that the action was not initiated by his client so there should be no consequences.
The lawyer said too, “we believe that this charge is not only unfounded but is also malevolent.” He also stated that it should be noted that the same feasibility study is the one being used by the PPP/C government, which is still moving ahead with the plans to construct the new Demerara Bridge.
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