The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) placing Government’s shares in Guyana Stockfeeds Inc on the local stock market will not absolve the incumbent Administration of the conundrum that it has placed itself in.
This was the view proffered by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who, in a statement on the move by NICIL to place 6,099,927 of it equity shares in Stockfeeds on the stock exchange, said that the crux of his issue deals with Stockfeeds purchasing shares from NICIL, with the approval of Cabinet, below market value.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan had confirmed that the shares were sold below market value at $25 each.
Nandlall’s contention was that arrangement should warrant the institution of criminal charges as the transaction is identical to ones in which former Government Ministers under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration were charged for and are currently before the courts.
In his statement on Thursday, Nandlall posited that “the gravamen of my criticism of the sale was (and still is), that the sale was conducted in the identical manner in which NICIL sold many assets of the State under the PPP/Civic government; but that nine (9) of those transactions are the subject of criminal charges instituted by SOCU against former Finance Minster, Dr Ashni Singh, and the former Chief Executive Officer of NICIL, Mr Winston Brassington, in accordance with the advice of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Singh and Brassington are accused of selling various properties at prices the State contends were grossly undervalued.
“Therefore, since the Constitution of Guyana guarantees to every citizen as a fundamental right, equal treatment before the law, I called upon the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to either forthwith terminate the charges against Singh and Brassington or to forthwith institute similar charges in relation to this latest sale. Anything short of this will constitute unconstitutional conduct, discrimination, violation of the rule of law, political persecution and an abuse of the legal process” said Nandlall.
He said further that “from the statement issued by NICIL, it appears that the recent sale has now been rescinded, presumably, because of these criticisms and the shares have been placed on the local stock market.”
NICIL in its statement on the stock market sales had said it is of the “view that ultimately, now that the shares have been placed on the stock exchange, the market will eventually determine the true value of the shares.”
However, the legal luminary posited that “this will not rectify the conundrum that the Government finds itself in, as it is beyond doubt that, it is the Government that is the driving force behind the criminal charges against Singh and Brassington. By those charges, the Government and the DPP have made the selling of State assets at a market determined prices, a criminal offence. Assets of the State must, now, only be sold at a price determined by a Certificate of Valuation. So, NICIL is not better off by putting these shares for sale on the stock market.”
Addressing the legality of the criminal charges that Singh and Brassington are currently engaging in the High Court, Nandlall posited that “If these charges receive the imprimatur of that Court, then in the future, State assets can only be lawfully sold if it is done in accordance with a Certificate of Valuation, irrespective of the price generated by market forces. In the same vein, any person who receives a benefit as a term and condition of service with the Government is liable to be charged with larceny of the same, even if it receives the approval of the Executive President of this land! That is now the law of Guyana.”
According to the former Attorney General “this is what happens when politicians are interfering with the criminal justice system in a society.”