The case filed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) regarding the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex was called up at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Friday before Magistrate Leron Daly.
The matter was scheduled for 09:00h before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan but she was unavailable and as a result Magistrate Daly was temporarily assigned the matter.
When the matter was called, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL, Winston Brassington was present in court but the charge was not read since his co-accused, former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh was absent.
Lawyers for Singh informed the court that the former Finance Minister was unable to attend as a result of unforeseen work-related circumstances overseas.
Magistrate Daly subsequently adjourned the matter for July 26 when the joint charge will be read to the two by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
On June 8, the charge was filed against Singh and Brassington.
Singh and Brassington are already before the courts on similar charges, but the charge for the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex were filed without the knowledge of the two parties.
As a consequence, they were not in court to answer the charge when the matter came up before acting Chief Magistrate Sherdel Issacs-Marcus.
The charge alleges that Singh and Brassington, while performing the duties of Finance Minister and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL respectively, between October 26 and December 20, 2010, they acted recklessly when they agreed to the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII). According to the charge, the 18.976-acre property was sold for $697.8 million but it was valued at $1.04 billion.
However, according to privatization documents published by NICIL, the property was valued at $245 million by the Government’s Chief Valuation Officer, but QAII paid $809.5 million for the property, which was more than three times the Government valuation.
According to documents seen by this publication, upon Cabinet’s approval, QAII embarked on its promised programme and reclamation, cleanup and investment. On May 30, 2007 QAII had requested and received a valuation of the property from the Government Assistant Valuation Officer, which proposed $330.375M (Land $269.200; Improvements $119.175M).
On June 7, NICIL had commissioned a valuation from the private firm of Rodrigues Architects Ltd, which posited that the property be valued at $1,042,403.500 (Land $209,650M; Improvements $832,753.5M).
NICIL also obtained on June 27, 2007 a valuation of the land and its improvements by the Government’s Chief Valuation Officer, which came in at $245.175M (Land: $130M; Improvements $115.175M.
QAII was responsible at their expense for the asbestos cleanup and removal of scrap alone, which they incurred at a cost above $400 million.
SOCU had previously brought charges against the two former Government officials in April.
The two men were arraigned on charges of allegedly selling several plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara to National Hardware Guyana Ltd for over $598 million. In addition, the charge includes selling land to Scady Business Corporation at a cost of $150 million, and to Multi-cinemas Guyana Inc at a cost of $185 million.
Many political and social commentators, even those in the legal fraternity, have argued that the charges against the two former Government officials may be unconstitutional on the basis that they are not “public officers” in accordance with the Constitution.
Following these events, former Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar, who served from 1999 to 2006, was taken in for questioning at SOCU’s Kingston, Georgetown head office, and was interrogated for close to five hours before being released on $200,000 station bail.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has said the decision to charge the duo for the sale of the lands, is nothing more than a “frivolous” attempt to keep a campaign promise made by the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to jail members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
“It is all frivolous… This Government campaigned on a promise that they will jail all of us when they get into power because we’re massively corrupt… We were told that we had assets that we were not declaring to the integrity Commission. We’re told that the People’s Progressive Party and its leaders had stolen so much money they couldn’t stash it in Guyana, they had to stash it abroad. These were the campaign. This was in the mouth of every person who spoke on the APNU platform. Jail, Jail these people,” Jagdeo told the media last month.
Former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh has since expressed confidence that the charges brought against him will be disposed of in the near future because he feels they are frivolous and have no bearing.
Singh said he discharged his functions as a Minister of Government and public servant diligently and in accordance with the law at all times.
“I have no fear whatsoever about the discharge of my duties being subjected to the ultimate degree of scrutiny… I have absolutely no reservation about that and I have absolutely no fear,” he added.