… Defence lawyer says ‘criminal justice system being used as a political weapon by those in Government’
The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has instituted legal proceedings against Former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington for what it says is “misconduct in public office: contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of state land.
Scheduled to appear at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts today (Thursday), the three charges advanced by SOCU were not read by Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan when the case was called since the men were not in the Jurisdiction.
Representing Dr Singh is Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, while Attorney-at-Law, Stanley Moore appeared for Brassington.
The case was adjourned to May 7, 2018 to allow the defence lawyers to contact their clients concerning the charges.
In the three charges advanced by SOCU and seen by this publication, it was outlined that Singh being the Chairman of NICIL and Brassington being the CEO in December of 2008 by way of Agreement of Sale and Purchase sold to Scady Business Corporation a track 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 Associate, a competent valuation officer.”
Similarly, 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.”
Moreover, it was outlined that Singh and Brassington in 2009, by way of an agreement of sale and Purchase sold to the National Hardware Guyana Limited a track of state land (103 acres), being a portion of Plantation 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.”
However, during an interview with INews today, Attorney for Singh and Opposition Parliamentarian Nandlall blasted SOCU on the fact that they had not, at any point, made contact with the individuals who were being investigated prior to the disclosure that charges will be laid.
“Last year, on behalf of Ashni Singh, I wrote to SOCU informing them that I am the lawyer for Dr Singh and that should they require him to assist in any investigations, that I am prepared to make contact with him and that he stands willing and able to assist and participate in any investigation…I received no response to that letter…They called me late yesterday evening to indicate to me that Dr Singh will be charged,” he explained.
Further, Nandlall asserted “since I sent that letter and during the [course] of whatever investigation they were conducting, no one attempted to make contact with Dr Singh.”
Nandlall, who also held the post of former Attorney General, also questioned why a criminal investigation of this type would be conducted and no attempt would be made to seek an input from the person or persons who are the subject of the investigation.
“You don’t investigate people behind their backs in a cloak and dagger fashion. That is not fair investigation. That is not how a democratic society works,” he said.
Nandlall explained that under their posts at NICIL, the duo (Singh and Brassington) never acted on their own accord in any decisions regarding the sale of properties.
“NICIL is a corporation in law, it is run by a Board. Ashni Singh, as Minister of Finance was ex-officio chair of that board. Brassington was the CEO. That board is a Government corporation. That board does not act without the Government’s approval…Over the years, NICIL has sold dozens of properties and a particular methodology was always used. Brassington nor Ashni Singh never acted on their own. They always acted upon the approval or direction of the Board that governed NICIL. That Board always received the support and approval of the Cabinet- which is the Government of Guyana,” he said.
According to Nandlall “all the procedures were complied with and three plots of land were sold… This is not a criminal offence. Where is the crime?”
Moreover, he posited that this action by SOCU is nothing short of a “witch hunt”, highlighting that he is positive that he will win this case, and as such, he hopes that the State is aware that civil suits will be filed for defamation of character.
“This is another spate of witch hunting that is taking place where the criminal justice system is being used as a political weapon by those in government to persecute …and damage the reputation of two young Guyanese professionals.”
“I hope the State will understand that they will have to pay millions of dollars at some point in time in compensation because civil suits are going to be filed when these charges are dismissed, because destruction has been done to people’s characters and reputations and people are suffering anguish and stress as a result of these charges that are being instituted,” he asserted.