2nd magistrate recuses self in misconduct trial against fmr Finance Minister

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Former Finance Minister Winston Jordan at the Georgetown Magistrates' Court

Two weeks ago, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan recused herself from presiding over the trial of former Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who is accused of misconduct in public office and on Thursday, another Magistrate, this time, Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus followed suit.

When the matter was called on Thursday, Magistrate Isaacs-Marcus told the court that she would not preside over the case in the interest of justice.

The Chief Magistrate had stated that she knew some of the lawyers who were involved in the case and reassigned the matter to Magistrate Isaacs-Marcus.

Now with the new development, the matter was adjourned to June 2, 2022.

Jordan, who served as Finance Minister under the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government from 2015 to 2020, was granted bail in the sum of $3 million when he initially appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on December 28, 2021.

It is alleged that Jordan, being and performing duties of Minister of Finance and being the concerned Minister for the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a company owned by the Government of Guyana, between February 26, 2020, and July 31, 2020, at Main Street, Georgetown, wilfully misconducted himself by acting recklessly when he signed NICIL (Transfer of Property) Order No 50 of 2020, which was published in the Official Gazette, transferring to and vesting to BK Marine Inc, absolutely, all buildings, erections, stellings, platforms, and further appurtenances, that is to say, Mudlots 1 & 2, F of Mudlot 3, A, B & D, situated at North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, being over 2.553 acres, for a payment of GY$20,260,276 for the property valued over GY$5 billion.

It is further alleged that the property being sold at a price that was grossly undervalued to such a degree amounts to an abuse of the public’s trust without reasonable excuse or justification.

Jordan was arrested by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), an arm of the Guyana Police Force that specialises in white-collar investigations on December 3, 2021, as part of investigations into alleged instances of corrupt governmental transactions between 2015 and 2020. BK Marine, SOCU said, had only paid 10 per cent of the purchase price, that is, GY$20 million and Jordan went ahead to issue a vesting order, passing the title to the purchaser without the payment of any further sum of monies.

According to SOCU, the vesting order stated that the property is being sold free from encumbrance and liabilities and no further sum of money is owed by the purchaser. It said that the transport was subsequently issued for the property and the value strangely stated on the transport was GY$400,000,000 million. Further, SOCU said that the agreement of sale stated that the title must only pass upon full payment of purchase price.

However, SOCU contended that investigators have evidence to establish that a facility that is a mere fraction of the size of the State property under investigation, located some seven miles upriver, was sold by a private company for US$17 million. It had pointed out that this was only one of several investigations that implicated former Minister Jordan.

While Jordan had previously denied any wrongdoing regarding this transaction, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, had announced that there were active investigations into a number of suspected shady dealings under the former APNU/AFC Government, and the former Finance Minister had been implicated in a number of “nefarious transactions”.

On behalf of the State, the Attorney General has also filed civil proceedings against Jordan at the Demerara High Court over the sale of the river frontage to BK Marine. In this case, Nandlall is seeking to overturn the contentious sale of the State property. To this end, he is asking the court to declare the agreement of sale between BK Marine and NICIL illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy. This matter is still ongoing.