Fmr NICIL Head back in Guyana to face fraud charges

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Former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Colvin Heath-London has finally landed in Guyana to face the fraud charges brought against him by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). The fraud accused appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on Monday charged in connection with leasing State lands at Peters Hall, East Bank Demerara (EBD).

Heath-London’s lawyers, Nigel Hughes and Narissa Leander have refused an application by the prosecution to have the charges against their client tried summarily which would see the trials being conducted by the Chief Magistrate. The charges against him remain indictable, and as such he has not been required to enter a plea.

In this case, the Magistrate would first have to conduct a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for Heath-London to be tried by a jury before a Judge at the High Court. The Chief Magistrate has instructed counsel to layover submissions in support of their request on May 27.

Also similarly charged are former Executive Member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Attorney-at-Law James Bond, Director of A-Z Pharmaceuticals Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc, Eddie Doolal, and Principal of the Arken Group Inc, Jermaine Richmond.

They, too, appeared in Court on Monday. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, paving the way for matters to be disposed of before the Magistrates’ Courts.

It is alleged that between August 1, 2017, and November 30, 2020, at Georgetown, Heath-London and Bond conspired together and with others to defraud NICIL, its sole shareholders, and the Government, of property interest in land; namely, the grant of a lease of land known as Plot A17, A18, A19 Plantation Peters Hall, EBD, owned by NICIL, without the necessary Board and Cabinet approval to do same, and for purposes other than that of NICIL.

It has also been alleged that Heath-London, Bond, and Doolal, between August 1, 2017, and November 30, 2020, at Georgetown, conspired together and with others to defraud NICIL, its sole shareholders, and the Government, of property interest in land; namely, the grant of a lease of land known as Plot A7, A8, A20 Plantation Peters Hall, EBD, owned by NICIL, without the necessary Board and Cabinet approval to do same, and for purposes other than that of NICIL.

The final charge stated that Bond, Heath-London, and Richmond, between August 1, 2017, and November 30, 2020, at Georgetown, conspired together and with others to defraud NICIL, its sole shareholders, and the Government of property interest in land; namely, the grant of a lease of land known as plot A1, A2, A3, A4 Plantation Peters Hall, EBD, owned by NICIL, without the necessary Board and Cabinet approval to do same, and for purposes other than that of NICIL.

In the meantime, Bond was placed on $150,000 bail, while Richmond and Doolal were each ordered to post $100,000 bail. Heath-London has also been released on monetary bail.

Bond is the lawyer who had represented three companies that are at the centre of the Peters Hall land investigation – Life 1 Pharms Incorporated, A-Z Pharmaceutical Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc, and Arken Group – in the drafting of leases by NICIL for the lands.

Shortly after the PPP/C assumed Government in August 2020, a thorough probe was conducted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in the matter, and it was revealed that several irregularities had occurred. During the investigations, Bond and his co-accused were questioned. The principals of the company reportedly told the Police that Bond arranged the sale of the lands, after which he found a buyer and was paid. It is being alleged that Bond received some $60 million from each of them.

The leases were controversial since they were in contravention of the stipulations regarding the disposal of State lands, which stipulate that when State lands are leased, the lease must state that the lessee must not part with possession of the land without the consent of the State.

However, in this case, both Life 1 Pharms Incorporated and A-Z Pharmaceutical Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc – which each leased 15 acres of land from NICIL at an annual rate of US$11,700 – flipped those lands to a Chinese national for just $100.

In the case of Arken Group, the proprietor of that company leased 20.8 acres of land for an annual fee of US$16,224 and had his address listed as the same as Bond’s. It was revealed that Bond then received US$1 million for the property after it was flipped to a local oil and gas company. (Guyana Times)