Former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali was at about 04:00h on Wednesday morning hauled from his home by officers attached to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and escorted to their headquarters where allegations of conspiracy in connection with the sale and transfer of lands located in Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (ECD), commonly known as Pradoville 2, were placed before him.
In the company of his Attorney’s Anil Nandlall, Priya Manikchand, Davendra Kissoon, Sase Gunraj, Ali was later taken to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts where he was charged.
The executive member of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) was released on his own recognizance by the Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan after Attorney Kissoon cited that he has numerous commitments pertaining to national duties, among others.
The 19 charges against him alleged that he conspired to defraud the government for plots of state lands located at Plantation Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, ECD.
The first charge stated that on September 2, 2010, at Georgetown, he conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government of Guyana of the sum $5.5M, acting recklessly in presenting the value of a plot of state land situated at Plantation Sparendaam at $1M, and sold same to Clement Rohee, without obtaining valuation for the true value of $7M.
A second charge stated that on September 2, 2010, at Georgetown, he defraud the Government of Guyana of the sum of $6M for a plot of land at Sparendaam sold to Rajendra Singh without obtaining valuation for the true value of $7M.
In total, it is alleged that Ali defrauded the Government out of $174M when he sold the lands below market value.
However, according to Nandlall, nothing is criminal or offensive about selling the lands to Guyanese at a cheaper cost, a decision which he noted was made in Cabinet.
Nandlall asserted that since the Opposition attained victory at the recently held Local Government Elections (LGE), the coalition Government is attempting to break their spirits, however he noted that this will be unsuccessful.
The former Attorney General said that none of the charges brought against Ali stated that he profited from the sale of the lands for which he is being charged.
“It was a policy of the Government at the time not to sell at a high price…so the charges have no merit whatsoever but they have been in the public domain for the past two years and suddenly, out of the blues, just before the budget debate begins and after the filing of a no-confidence motion you find one of our members in the National Assembly being prosecuted at the level of the Privileges Committee, you have Ali being arrested at four in the morning for charges that were in the air for two years” Nandlall condemned.
Further, Nandlall stated that in no other country can a former Government Minister or anyone for that matter be charged for selling lands without a valuation.
Meanwhile, Attorney-at-law Manikchand called the arrest an “act of oppression” by the coalition government against Ali, one which the PPP/C will fight to the end.
“The state is becoming more and more oppressive and it is becoming the kind of Police State that every citizen must rise up against because every citizen is in jeopardy of having rights taken away from them and we are seeing that manifest itself” she criticized.