An Executive Member of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, collected US$1 million for lands that were flipped at Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara – new documents have revealed.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has announced that the government is going ahead with its promised investigations into the giveaway of prime State lands during the APNU/AFC administration.
He revealed that almost 50 acres of land were practically given away, through three different agreements, at Peters Hall by the then administration through the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL).
The PNC Executive at the centre of the questionable transactions was the listed as the lawyer on record for the drafting of the three contracts.
The AG revealed that in one instance, 20 acres of land was leased for 20 years to a company with its addressed listed as Third Street, Alberttown, Georgetown.
The lands referred to as Plots A1, A2, A3, and A4 amounted to 20.8 acres were not valuated prior to the signing of the lease on May 9, 2018 for an annual fee of US$16,224.
The land was later sold to a company connected to the Oil and Gas Industry for US$1 million. The money, however, did not go to the owner but rather to the attorney on record.
Nandlall said that the address for the company is the same address that the PNC Executive has listed on his bank account as place of residence.
“The money is paid into the account of the lawyer and it is the very lawyer who draft these leases – paid into the account of the lawyer at a commercial bank…2 payments totalling US$1 million in a commercial bank (account with) the lawyer name and his address Third Street, Alberttown at the bank,” Nandlall said.
He said that as the Government continues with the review of all the land transactions, they are finding that the APNU/AFC flouted all processes used to lease or divest lands owned by the State.
He added that there was 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.
“There is no principle governing or evidence of any principle governing how the prices were determined. There is no valuation certificate on record, there is no market value assessment done or at least there is no evidence of it anywhere. So, one does not know how a particular price was arrived at for these lands,” he explained.
In instances where the lands were gifted away, the AG revealed that the David Granger-led administration did not ask for any evidence of proposed projects to be executed on the lands nor did they assess how the usage of the land will impact the economy and benefit the Guyanese people.
“In terms of purchase price, there appears to be no principles governing how much will be paid down and when the balance will be paid. 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 permeated these transactions,” he informed.
The State Lands Act of Guyana stipulates that when State lands are leased, the lease must state that the lessee must not part with possession without the consent of the landlord (the state) or shall not assign the interest in the lease without the consent of the landlord. If the lessee acts in contravention of that clause, then the State reserves the right to step in and repossess the lands.
However, in the case of the three agreements at Peters Hall, the PNC Executive, in drafting the lease agreements, changed that to state: “the lessee may assign, sublet, grant any licenses or otherwise part with the possession and/or purpose and/or dispose of the whole or any part of the demised property or any building or other erection at any time standing thereon or any right or privilege in relations thereto conferred by this agreement.”
Nandlall notes that the clause itself acts in contravention of the law.
A total of 30 acres was leased, in 15 acres blocks, to two companies with both companies having identical leases for identical blocks of land at an identical rental fee of US$11,700 per year for an identical 20 years.
Ironically, both leases were signed on the same date – May 17, 2018. One of the companies has its address listed at EE Eccles, EBD while the other is listed at Grove Public Road, EBD.
Nandall also stated that the three companies –Alberttown, Eccles and Grove Public Road – appears to be shell companies since they have no assets nor are there any trace of their operations.
The Attorney General revealed that both companies, by way of Deed of Assignment, sub-leased the land to a Chinese national of Wellington Street, Georgetown for just $100GYD.
“If this is not wrong doing then I am not sure…I cannot imagine how a person can pay US$11,000 which by itself is a great undervalue for the land and…does not divest for more but for $100GYD. Obviously, you have money laundering implications, you have fraud,” he said.
Nandall said that the Police as well as the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) will have to now step in since it appears that there are elements of money laundering and fraud associated with the transactions.
“Obviously, you have money laundering implications, you have fraud. So, this will be passed to the Police and SOCU and we will get the legal advice and the investigation will begin… This (transactions) is organized crime in my view and got elements of money laundering and fraud and corruption,” he posited.
He noted that some persons have already taken steps to relinquish their interests in lands obtained under questionable circumstances and the government is prepares to work with them to obtain lands using a transparent process. He added that the process is one where the public is involved and the allocations be transparent and at fair prices.
“The companies must show that they would be able to deliver on the projects that they want the lands for. So, they have to have financial backings, they must do a feasibility of the project…so you have to have a project and it has to be properly examined and every person who qualified will get portions of land,” he said.