Just moments after being released on $6M bail each, former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL Winston Brassington on Tuesday stood in front of media operatives and confidently stated that they will be vindicated of the three charges laid against them by the coalition Government as it relates to the sale of three plots of state land during the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) tenure in office.
“I have absolutely no reservation about that and I have absolutely no fear…I have no fear and …I’m fully confident that once these matters are fully heard, they will be disposed of in the manner in which they deserve… I have no fear whatsoever about the discharge of my duties being subjected to the ultimate degree of scrutiny,” Singh told the media.
Brassington also stated “I voluntarily came. We did no wrong. The evidence speaks for itself. In time I believe we will be vindicated.”
Both of the men reside overseas where they are currently employed and have since returned to Guyana to face the charges advanced by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
In the three charges it was outlined that Singh, being the Chairman of NICIL, and Brassington, being its CEO, in December of 2008, by way of agreement of sale and purchase, sold to Scady Business Corporation a tract 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 & Associates, a competent valuation officer.”
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.”
SOCU is contending also that Singh and Brassington, in 2009, by way of an agreement of sale and purchase, sold to the National Hardware Guyana Limited a tract of state land (103 acres), being a portion of Plantations 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.”
Singh, who appeared collected, asserted that during his period of serving the citizens of Guyana, he strongly believes that he discharged his roles “diligently, in accordance with the law at all times and [it] is consistent with and in pursuit of national interest.”
“I will say, and I speak for myself and I believe I speak for Winston as well, the Guyanese people have entrusted me for more than 20 years with a succession of roles, first in the civil service and then subsequently in Parliament and as a Minister and throughout that time I took those responsibilities, the responsibilities associated with those roles extremely seriously,” he asserted.
Moreover, Singh labeled the actions by the incumbent Administration as “rule by innuendo, insinuation, and intimidation.”
“For example, [Government’s claims] that attempts had been made to contact Brassington and Singh since 2015 [however] both of us are on public records as having had our lawyers writing the relevant agencies to say in the event you need to contact these two gentlemen, we are their legal representatives. You may contact us. And no attempt whatsoever was made to contact us. But the innuendo keeps being repeated” said Singh.
He maintained that the charges of “misconduct in public office; contrary to common law” hold no merit.
“Many of you have been saying where is all this corruption that the APNU/AFC have been speaking of. This is what they’ve come up with? Take the [former] GRDB [Guyana Rice Development Board] of Directors, you know what they are charged with? Failure to make an entry in a ledger. That’s what they were charged with. But they keep repeating the innuendo-Corruption. And they believe that by repeating this innuendo, somehow it will take root,” Singh asserted.
He further added that he is confident that Guyanese will not fall for such schemes, while positing that if these “frivolous” transactions are considered “misconduct in office” then “I shudder to think of the number of instances of misconduct in public office that are being committed right now.”
According to the former Finance Minister “They’re setting a bar as it relates to misconduct in public office which they themselves are wholly incapable of applying, and achieving and adhering…And so you need to ask yourself what is the assumption that they are making related to their own tenure in office because anybody who behaves like this clearly believes that they will never have to answer to the people of Guyana.”
Meanwhile, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who is one of the defence attorneys representing the men, said that to have Singh and Brassington charged for “misconduct in public office” where they weren’t accused of stealing funds, but instead being punished for selling lands without a valuation being done, is “political persecution taken to another level.”
“What did Ashni Singh and Brassington do? They’re not accused of stealing a cent. They are not accused of profiteering in any form or fashion. All they’re being accused of is selling a property without valuation. People do that every day.They sold properties at a price determined by market value. What is criminal about that?” he questioned. (Ramona Luthi)