As the legal proceedings continue against former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington who have been charged with “misconduct in public office: contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of state land, Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan has given the prosecution until tomorrow to prove that they “attempted service” on the defendants.
This is according to Sase Gunraj, who is one of the Attorneys representing Singh and Brassington at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
He told INews that “when the matter was called this morning, the Magistrate was not convinced by the prosecution that there was sufficient evidence of proof of service of the proceedings on the defendant and as a consequence, she put it off for tomorrow.”
On April 12 2017, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) took to the court and had the men arraigned in their absence.
In the three charges advanced by SOCU, it was outlined that Singh, being the Chairman of NICIL and Brassington being the CEO in December of 2008 by way of Agreement of Sale and Purchase sold to Scady Business Corporation a track of state land (4.7 acres) being a portion of Plantation Liliendaal, situated on the East Coast of Demerara for the sum of $150, 000, 000 “knowing that the said property was valued at $ 340,000,000 by Rodrigues Architects Associate, a competent valuation officer.”
Similarly, the other charge outlined that Singh and Brassington sold to Multicinemas Guyana Inc a plot of state land (10 acres) at Turkeyen for the sum of $185, 037, 000 “without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.”
Moreover, it was outlined that Singh and Brassington in 2009, by way of an agreement of sale and Purchase sold to the National Hardware Guyana Limited a track of state land (103 acres), being a portion of Plantation Liliendaal and Turkeyen for the sum of $598, 659,398 (VAT exclusive) “without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.”
However, former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who is also representing the duo, had blasted SOCU on the fact that they had not, at any point, made contact with the individuals who were being investigated prior to the disclosure that charges will be laid.
Nandlall, also questioned why a criminal investigation of this type would be conducted and no attempt would be made to seek an input from the person or persons who are the subject of the investigation.
“You don’t investigate people behind their backs in a cloak and dagger fashion. That is not fair investigation. That is not how a democratic society works,” he said.
Nandlall explained that under their posts at NICIL, the duo (Singh and Brassington) never acted on their own accord in any decisions regarding the sale of properties.
Moreover, Opposition Leader and former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo also defended the men, saying that SOCU’s charges were “frivolous” and that the men were at the time acting on the instructions on the then PPP Government with regards to the sale of the three plots of state land.
Last week Nandlall filed two High Court actions seeking to have an interim stay of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts and to have the charges against Singh and Brassington quashed.
On Wednesday last, Justice Franklyn Holder heard the challenge and having heard both sides, the Judge gave SOCU’s lawyers one week to show why he should not grant Nandlall’s application.
According to Nandlall “We are challenging the legality and validity of the charges and that will take some time to determine; in the meantime, we want an interim order staying the hands of the Magistrate from going forward, so the hearing for that has commenced [but] the other side wants leave to file and answer,” he observed.
Both parties will return to the Supreme Court on May 16 for arguments on whether or not the Judge will grant the interim stay.
Singh and Brassington both live overseas and did not appear in the Magistrates’ Court today (Ramona Luthi).