May 12, 2021 News
Illegal Concrete Factory…
– CHPA issues third Cease Order for construction
Kaieteur News – The Government has instructed Ian Charles Jones, a Director of foreign-controlled company, Superior Concrete Inc., to leave these shores within seven days following his disrespectful actions towards enforcement officers of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA). The officers recently sought to issue an Order for his company to cease the illegal construction of a concrete factory at Houston Estates.
The unlawful operation was first reported by this news entity on Saturday last. Kaieteur News had exposed that the company was setting up the concrete batching facility at Houston Estates without any regulatory permissions. When CHPA officers issued the first Contravention Order for all works to come to a halt, Jones destroyed the document then discarded same in the presence of officers.
In a subsequent article published on Monday, Kaieteur News exposed that Jones, who was moving full speed ahead with the concrete factory, was the Project Manager for the construction of a high specification ExxonMobil headquarters in Guyana for the period November 2019 to September 2020.
Following the foregoing, Minister of Housing, Collin Croal, in the company of Sherwyn Greaves, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) and staff of the CHPA’s Enforcement Department visited the illegal operation with the intent of serving another cease order, but the team of Government officials and regulatory officers were treated with disrespect. This time, it was by Richard Austin Shamlin, another foreign Director of Superior Concrete Inc. Shamlin approached the team and told them to leave the premises as it is private property. He said too that he had no interest in engaging them on what they came for.
In spite of the gross disrespect, the Minister and his team followed through with their plan to issue the order. It was received by another Superior Concrete Inc. foreign Director, Maxwell Snow.
Speaking to members of the media while at the site, the Housing Minister disclosed that he had received a number of complaints from residents of the area about the said operations and took the opportunity to see firsthand what was taking place. Croal was keen to note that he carried out his own investigations prior to the visit and those inquiries revealed that the company had made no application for the construction of the batching facility to CHPA. He said too that when the first Order was issued on May 5, last, by CHPA Officials, they met with a “very hostile environment.”
“In fact, the person (Ian Charles Jones) who collected it, (destroyed it and) threw it away in front of our enforcement team. So that was the first Order. A second one was served on them on May 8, last, but they (the enforcement officers) saw no one at the site and so they pasted it very visibly on the facility. But what concerns us is that there was an investment of this nature without first seeking approval. No application was done,” the Minister said.
Croal also expressed alarm that the Director treated a notice from one of the Government’s regulatory agencies as though it were a piece of garbage. The Government official said legal action would be considered for this sort of contempt for CHPA enforcement officers.
CHPA’s CEO, Sherwyn Greaves, also condemned the disrespectful actions of the British Director. He noted that none of the company officials would be addressed at this time as the illegal use of the land is engaging the attention of the court. That action was undertaken by other landowners in Houston Estates.
Greaves said, “Disrespect to staff I will not tolerate. There is a process that everyone has to follow and one of the key things in the process of seeking approval is the engagement of the residents. I am sure they are appalled this was taking place without their consent and we are angry with the actions of the Directors. We will follow up in the next few days to make sure that the Contravention Order is followed.”
In addition to there being no approval granted by CHPA, Greaves confirmed with the media that no green light was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, the agency was never even approached.
City Mayor, Ubraj Narine, also expressed his disgust with the illegal operations yesterday during a press conference as he confirmed that no approval was ever given by the Georgetown Mayor and City Council for the construction at Houston Estates. He disclosed that the Council will also file an injunction against Superior Concrete Inc. to cease its operations.
Last evening, Kaieteur News learned that Jones’ work permit – which allowed him to work in Guyana from January 17, 2020 to January 16, 2022 – was terminated with immediate effect. He has up to May 12, 2021, to depart Guyana. It is likely that Shamlin, the foreign director who disrespected the Minister and his team yesterday, may face similar action too.
The illegal operation that was being led by Snow, Jones and Shamlin was taking place on land adjacent to South Ruimveldt. Kaieteur News was able to obtain a copy of the transport for the plot in use and observed that it is partly owned by Michael Vieira, who is the Chairman of Houston Estates. KN understands that Vieira has no part of the illegal operation but had leased the lands to Andrew Mekdeci.
Vieira has indicated to concerned landowners that he does not know the owners of Superior Concrete Inc. and he has no arrangement with them. He has also stated that his lease to Mekdeci specifies that the land is to be used only for legal and lawful purposes.
In a statement to the press last night, Mekdeci denied having any involvement in this illegal operation, stating that “I will not flout the laws of Guyana.” He admitted however that his company was contracted to provide equipment and construction materials to the foreign controlled company while adding – it was observed by this publication during a site visit that machinery operating on the site is branded MMC, a company owned and controlled by Andrew and Marise Mekdeci.
In light of this declaration, Kaieteur News sent an email last night, asking Andrew Mekdeci to answer the following questions: “1. Please state whether or not you or any company or person associated directly or indirectly with you has leased or licenced the lands in question to Superior Concrete; 2. Please state if that lease or licence is current; 3. Please state whether or not you have either (a) given Superior Concrete permission to install a cement batching plant or (b) informed Superior Concrete that the subject lands have a restriction prohibiting industrial use; 4. Since you have become aware of the cease work orders being issued by CHPA and the M&CC, have you either (a) written to Superior Concrete to terminate the lease or licence or (b) written them to stop the use of and remove the concrete plant.”
Up to press time, no response was provided to these questions, which were emailed to Ajay Baksh of Perception Inc., a Public Relations and Advertising firm that sent the statement on Mekdeci’s behalf.
Kaieteur News will continue to follow this story.
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