Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, who represents former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Head Colvin Heath-London, is now contending that the lands which have landed his client in hot water were not State lands and so did not require the permission of NICIL to effect the sale.
In a statement, Hughes contended that because the lands transferred by NICIL were held in transport, they could not be considered State lands subject to the State Lands Act Cap 62:01, which requires permission from NICIL before the land can be sold to a third party.
As such, the lawyer contended that his client did nothing wrong in not seeking NICIL’s permission before the sale of the lands. Instead, Hughes was of the view that these lands are subject to Deeds Registry Act Chapter 5:01, since they are held by transport.
“NICIL entered into leases with various entities which expressly conferred on the lessee the right to transfer their interest without the written permission of NICIL. It also entered into leases with various persons which either required their permission to transfer to a third party and some which did not contain that provision,” Hughes said.
“There is no law which requires State corporations or State companies to include in any lease of property held by transport by them, a provision that the written permission of NICIL be first obtained.”
It was only last week that Hughes in a statement had contended that Heath-London had received permission from former NICIL Chief Executive Officer Horace James, now deceased, to amend lease transactions by removing the provision prohibiting the subletting of land without permission.
The Board minutes and other documents Hughes had cited to back up this claim were, however, subsequently disavowed by the NICIL Board. According to the NICIL Board, the documents which were used in support of Heath-London were forgeries, for which no records existed.
Another claim made by Hughes in his statement was that the State did not lose money by these transactions. According to him, the companies which sold the land they leased to third parties, merely transferred the lease to the person buying the land.
“The lessee (tenant) did not “buy” any land, they merely entered into a lease with NICIL for twenty years and are obliged to pay the rent for the entire period unless the lease was terminated. The lessee (tenant), therefore, could not “sell” the property as they did not own the property. All the lessee (tenant) held was a lease to the property for a period of 20 years or such period stated in the lease,” Hughes said.
“When the lessee (tenant) entered into an agreement with a third party to “sell” their interest in the lease, they could only “sell” or dispose of what they had obtained from NICIL which is the remaining time of the lease. For example, they could not pass transport of the property to a third party because they did not own the transport. NICIL remains the owners by transport of all the properties under investigation.”
Avalon Jagnandan, proprietor of Life 1 Pharms Incorporated, and Eddie Doolall, of A-Z Pharmaceutical Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc, were able to sublease several acres of land at Peters Hall, EBD, by way of Deed of Assignment, to a Chinese national of Lot 43 Wellington Street, Georgetown, for just $100.
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 two agreements at Peters Hall, PNC member and Attorney-at-Law James Bond 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 relation thereto conferred by this agreement.”
Heath-London, as Chief Executive Officer of NICIL, presided over all of this at the time. Heath-London, Bond and the two businessmen have already been questioned by the police in relation to the flipping of the lands.
Both businessmen, in their statements to Police, implicated Bond as the person who arranged the sale of the lands. Both men have similar stories of being told by Bond to apply to NICIL for the land, after which a buyer was found by Bond, who is currently out on $200,000 bail.