SOCU accused of coercing businesses into donating to D’Urban Park

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The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force is accused of having coerced, directly or indirectly, members of the business community into making contributions to the construction of the D’Urban Park Jubilee Project, through a privately registered company that was set up to solicit donations – Homestretch Development Inc.

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The matter was first raised by former Minister within the Finance Ministry, Bishop Juan Edghill, during a debate on a parliamentary motion he unsuccessfully piloted in the National Assembly, owing to the majority held by Government, where he openly questioned what role, if any, SOCU played in the solicitation of funds through coercion or intimidation.

POLITICAL INVESTMENTS
Edghill subsequently met with members of the media at the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s Freedom House Headquarters and reminded them of a policy being pursued by the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, which speaks to persons being rewarded for political investments.
According to Bishop Edghill, “During the same time of these calls for the extraction of donations, there was heightened SOCU activity.”
The former Minister charged that during that period, businesses were being called and told to make donations.
“Businesses were called and told (to donate) $10 million,” Edghill alleged.
He said that the heightened activities on the part of SOCU were simultaneously happening. “SOCU was raiding people’s homes and businesses started feeling pressure that if they don’t give this list of places where SOCU could visit that you would be next and people actually started forking out money because they didn’t want to have SOCU raiding their homes at six o’ clock in the morning.”
According to Edghill, “All of this was happening simultaneously”, with the extraction of donations from the business community.
The PPP/C Member of Parliament told media operatives that it was in this vein, he raised the matter of SOCU’s involvement in the construction of the D’Urban Park Jubilee Project during the debate in the National Assembly, since he wanted Government to offer clarifications.
He told media operatives that he wanted Government to clarify that SOCU played no role in the entire sordid affair, but a clarification was not forthcoming since none of the Government speakers at the debate delved into the matter.

FALL IN LINE
Edghill at the time sought to query if Homestretch Development Inc was an outfit that was being used to have business that did not contribute to the APNU/AFC’s campaign “fall in line”.
He posited that not all Guyanese businesses would have supported the coalition’s campaign, “because not all of them supported, but they were made to fall in line after the election”.
The former Government Minister suggested too that “this was a facility to come and say you will work with us, put your money where your mouth is”.
Bishop Edghill said too that this was among the reasons the Opposition was clamouring to have the list of contractors involved in the project disclosed, since “we will be able to look and see”.
He questioned the accuracy of reports that persons who donated to the development of the Jubilee Park “benefited from tax write-offs”. Disclosures
“So the ordinary man out there wants to know,” and according to Edghill, all of the speculation could be avoided if Colonel (rtd) Larry London would come clean on the affairs of Homestretch Development Inc.
The company has since come under intense scrutiny after information surfaced that it was only registered earlier this year, while donations were being solicited since last September.
Colonel (rtd) London and Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine are among the key directors of that company – information that only came to light during the parliamentary debate in the House on Monday.
Edghill opined that the former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Colonel who, “is an honourable gentleman, well trained with years of experience in the army and now holds a high office as Chairman of the GCCA (Guyana Civil Aviation Authority)… [should] just come to the microphones”.
He has since called on Colonel (rtd) London to come clean on the donations made to the company prior to the Public Infrastructure Ministry taking over the project on April 20, 2016.
According to Edghill, should Colonel (rtd) London come forward to provide a list of monies received by Homestretch Development Inc in addition to the expenditure, “then the matter will be closed”.
Efforts to contact Colonel (rtd) London – who is currently in Florida, USA – proved futile. (Guyana Times)

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