Senior Magistrate Leron Daly was forced to reschedule former Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s misconduct in public office case after no prosecutor from the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) showed up in court last week Wednesday. The matter has been adjourned to October 31. The former Minister was granted bail in the sum of $3 million when he initially appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on December 28, 2021.
It is alleged that Jordan, being and performing duties of Finance Minister and being the concerned Minister for the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a company owned by the Government, between February 26, 2020, and July 31, 2020, at Main Street, Georgetown, wilfully misconducted himself by acting recklessly when he signed NICIL (Transfer of Property) Order No 50 of 2020, which was published in the Official Gazette, transferring to and vesting to BK Marine Inc, absolutely, all buildings, erections, stellings, platforms, and further appurtenances, that is to say, Mudlots 1 & 2, F of Mudlot 3, A, B & D, situated at North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, being over 2.553 acres, for payment of $20,260,276 for the property valued over $5 billion.
It is further alleged that the property being sold at a price that was grossly undervalued to such a degree amounts to an abuse of the public’s trust without reasonable excuse or justification.
Jordan was arrested by SOCU, an arm of the Guyana Police Force that specialises in white-collar investigations, on December 3, 2021, as part of investigations into alleged instances of corrupt governmental transactions between 2015 and 2020.
BK Marine, SOCU said, had only paid 10 per cent of the purchase price, that is, $20 million, and Jordan went ahead to issue a vesting order, passing the title to the purchaser without the payment of any further sum of monies.
According to SOCU, the vesting order stated that the property is being sold free from encumbrance and liabilities and no further sum of money is owed by the purchaser.
It said that the transport was subsequently issued for the property and the value strangely stated on the transport was $400,000,000. Further, SOCU said that the agreement of sale stated that the title must only pass upon full payment of the purchase price.
However, SOCU contended that investigators have evidence to establish that a facility that is a mere fraction of the size of the State property under investigation, located some seven miles upriver, was sold by a private company for US$17 million. It had pointed out that this was only one of several investigations that implicated former Minister Jordan.
While Jordan had previously denied any wrongdoing regarding this transaction, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, had announced that there were active investigations into a number of suspected shady dealings under the former APNU/AFC Government, and the former Finance Minister had been implicated in a number of “nefarious transactions”.
On behalf of the State, the Attorney General had also filed civil proceedings against Jordan at the Demerara High Court over the sale of the river frontage to BK Marine.
In this case, Nandlall was seeking to overturn the contentious sale of the State property. To this end, he had asked the court to declare the agreement of sale between BK Marine and NICIL illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy.
However, last week, Justice Brassington Reynolds dismissed the lawsuit on finding that while the Attorney General is authorised to bring an action for misfeasance in public office against Jordan, he did not, in the case at bar, satisfy the elements of the tort.
Referencing a plethora of case law, he held that the pleadings in Nandlall’s Affidavit in Support were misconceived, and, therefore, ruled that the case was an abuse of the court’s process, before striking it out. As such, he awarded costs of $2 million each to Jordan and BK Marine.
Describing it as “one of the most shocking decisions I have ever witnessed in my brief career at the Bar”, Nandlall has signalled his intention to appeal the decision of the High Court Judge.