Finance Minister confirms Guyana Stockfeeds shares were sold below market value

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Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan

On the heels of calls by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall to have Government’s sale of its shares in Guyana Stockfeeds Inc (GSI) to Robert Badal investigated by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Finance Minister Winston Jordan has confirmed the shares were sold below market value.

The shares were sold at $25 each in a deal passed through the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).

Minister Jordan told a section of the media on Tuesday that his Government opted to sell off the shares since it was not receiving profits from GSI. The Government’s sold its 5437 shares which represented 6.7 per cent of the total shares.

It was outlined that Badal was the only one who indicated interest in purchasing Government’s shares. This came via his lone submission of and Expression of Interest (EoI) to purchase the shares.

However, Minister Jordan disclosed that Badal’s offer was not in keeping with the valuation price.

Though Government conducted three valuations of the shares to determine the value, it accepted Badal’s offer which was lower than the valuation. He however assured that all of the valuations were similar.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall is of the view that this arrangement should warrant the institution of criminal charges as the transaction is identical to ones in which former Government Ministers under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration were charged for and are currently before the courts.

Nandlall observed that when the sale was announced, there was no mention whatsoever of how the purchase price for these shares was arrived at. Further, there was no mention that a Certificate of Valuation was used to determine the purchase price of the shares.

Nandlall later explained that “When one compares this with the transactions which formed the basis for the criminal charges instituted against Dr Ashni Singh, former Minister of Finance; and Winston Brassington, former CEO of NICIL, one would see quickly that they were virtually identical.”

Singh and Brassington are accused of selling various properties at prices the State contends were grossly undervalued.

However, the former Attorney General opined that “They were public advertisements for those transactions and the properties were sold based on the highest bids received. Each transaction received the approval of Cabinet. Therefore, if Singh and Brassington committed criminal offences then fairness and justice would demand that charges be immediately instituted in respect of the Stockfeeds’ purchase of shares.”

Government agreed to accept around $136,000 for the NICIL shares in Guyana Stockfeeds.

“If the Government is to obtain a valuation certificate from the very Valuation Officer (Rodrigues and Associates), whose name is mentioned in the charges against Singh and Brassington, I have no doubt that those shares would be valued several billion dollars,” Nandlall said on Monday.

The PPP/C executive member had also reminded that the situation is further exacerbated by the fact that in 2008, the High Court ruled that the Government owns 38 per cent of that company.

The Court of Appeal then overturned the High Court decision last year, and reduced the Government’s 38 per cent shareholding to seven per cent.

Nandlall had noted too that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration then refused to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), “thereby essentially gifting Stockfeeds billions of dollars by allowing the Government shareholdings to remain at seven per cent.”

“At the time, the PPP in a public statement, called upon the Government to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal to the CCJ. The PPP pointed out Badal’s close relationship with the AFC and alleged that this was a payback for donations made to the political campaign of the APNU/AFC. Our calls were ignored,” Nandlall said in his social media post.

He highlighted that the recent charges instituted against former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, noted that he was “charged with conspiracy to defraud”. However, Nandlall feels that when one carefully considers the facts of the sales of these shares, it reeks of a conspiracy to defraud the State of billions.

Nineteen charges deemed politically trumped-up were on Wednesday last instituted against Ali by SOCU, in a move the parliamentary Opposition and the International Centre for Democracy (ICD) have criticised and deemed “victimisation of a political opponent”.

His arrest and subsequent charges stemmed from the sale and transfer of lands located in Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (ECD), commonly known as “Pradoville 2”.

According to Nandlall, a formal complaint to SOCU will be made shortly in relation the Stockfeeds’ purchase.

“We will see whether criminal charges will flow,” he said.

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