Shady NICIL land deals: James Bond a no-show at 2nd court hearing

0

James Bond [File photo]
Former Executive Member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Attorney-at-Law James Bond was a no-show at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Monday where he is charged in connection with leasing State lands at Peters Hall, East Bank Demerara (EBD). His reason for being absent from court, according to his lawyer Patrice Henry, was “transportation issues”.

Former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Colvin Heath-London, who is also charged, was also absent from court. This is his second absence. His lawyer, Narissa Leander, informed Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan that her client is stranded in Jamaica where borders are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also similarly charged are: Director of the A-Z Pharmaceuticals Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc, Eddie Doolal, and Principal of the Arken Group Inc, Jermaine Richmond. The quartet was first charged on April 1, 2021. Monday was the second hearing for the matter. Only Doolal and Richmond along with their lawyers were present for the hearing.

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, East Bank, Demerara, owned by NICIL, without the necessary Board and Cabinet approval to do same, and for purposes other than that of NICIL.

Application granted
At Monday’s court hearing, Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) Prosecutor Attorney-at-Law Leslyn Noble made an application for the charges against the defendants to be deposed of summarily. With no objections raised by defence counsel, the Chief Magistrate granted the application. In light of this, the defendants will be allowed to plead to the charges at their next court appearance on May 10, 2021.

In the meantime, Bond was placed on $150,000 bail, while Richmond and Doolal were each ordered to post $100,000 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.