By Vahnu Manikchand
Finance Minister Winston Jordan has filed a $200 million lawsuit against Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill, whose private criminal charges against several Government ministers, including Jordan, have since been dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
In the court document seen by this publication, Jordan is claiming damages in the sum of $200,000,000; for the “Malicious Prosecution of the Offence of Misconduct in Public Office” and other damages.
On April 23, Edghill initiated private criminal charges against Minister Jordan and Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson jointly as well as against Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine.
The charges against the Ministers allege a breach of the Procurement Act in relation to the expenditure of $906 million in public funds to a private company, Homestretch Development Inc, for the construction of the controversial D’Urban Park Project, which has been a contentious issue for some time now.
Jordan and Patterson were jointly charged with misconduct and abuse of public trust for having allegedly authorised the payment, while Dr Roopnaraine, who was a director of the company, was charged with alleged misconduct and the abuse of public trust for having received, in his capacity as director, the $906 million in public funds while serving as minister.
However, those charges were subsequently discontinued by the DDP, Shalimar Ali-Hack, who said that in the interest of good governance, such allegations against serving ministers ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought.
Despite the charges being dismissed, Jordan, in his application to the court, said the private criminal charges filed by the Opposition Parliamentarian was intended to embarrass, humiliate, and cause him to suffer public odium and contempt.
“…the institution of the aforesaid Criminal Charge of Misconduct in Public Office against me were widely reported in the local newspapers, radio, electronic media, and was accessible and circulated on the World Wide Web and I thereafter received telephone calls from family, friends and overseas officials, inclusive of officials employed at international financial organisations… [and as such] I have suffered significant harm to my reputation and integrity as a direct result of the institution of the criminal proceeding by the respondent against me,” Jordan said in the court document.
The Finance Minister went on to explain in his application that the $906 million was approved by the National Assembly, and thereafter, made available to the Public Infrastructure Ministry from the Consolidated Fund. He noted that as a Member of Parliament, Edghill could not honestly believe that he acted without reasonable excuse or justification in respect of issuing a Warrant to effect disbursements and allocation of the money to the Public Infrastructure Ministry.
“…the respondent was therefore aware, or ought to have been reasonably aware, that the sum of $906,000,000… was approved by the National Assembly and as Minister of Finance, I was obligated by Law to issue the necessary warrant to ensure that the said approved sum of money was available to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, and as such there could be no honest belief that I willfully misconducted myself as alleged by the Respondent,” Jordan argued.
Furthermore, he pointed out that as Finance Minister, he did not and could not have paid or authorise the payment of the $906 million to Homestretch Development Inc., as alleged by the Opposition Parliamentarian.
“…notwithstanding that the Respondent was… a former Minister of Finance within the Ministry of Finance…; even an ordinary prudent and cautious citizen placed as a Complainant in the said Criminal Proceedings of Misconduct in Public Office against me could not have reasonably concluded that I was guilty of the offence or even draw an inference that I was guilty of the offence of Misconduct in Public Office as alleged…,” Jordan stated.
Those private charges that Edghill had initiated where the second set of charges filed by the Opposition that the DPP had thrown out, citing the same reasons.
Two days before dismissing the charges against Ministers Jordan and Patterson, the DPP also discontinued charges against Government Ministers Volda Lawrence and George Norton.
Those charges were previously filed over the sole sourcing of over $600 million in drugs and other pharmaceuticals for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, and the rental of a house in Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown to be utilised as a drug bond at a cost of $12M monthly respectively.