Attorney General Basil Williams has requested that the State Asset Recovery Unit send the report in which it recommended criminal charges for several former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government ministers, to the Director of Public Prosecution so that those charges can be perused.
However, the current DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack is also a beneficiary of the prime lands at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, referred to as Pradoville 2.
The Attorney General is suggesting that the DPP may also be required to recuse herself in the determination of that matter.
It alleged that the former cabinet members, including former President Bharrat Jagdeo knew they were doing a wrong in transferring state lands into their names and that of their acquaintances at prices far below the market value.
Not only did the report point out that the lands were acquired by the government officials below market value, but there were also several breaches in the procedures for various transactions.
The report was sent to the Attorney General Chambers, but according to Williams, his Chambers cannot pursue criminal charges.
He explained that what he can do is to bring civil suits against the former Cabinet members.
“The criminal aspect is swifter. I would recommend that the report also be sent to the Public Security Minister and Director of Public Prosecutions,” Williams said.
The AG also explained that the criminal charges can be pursued by the police, but cautioned that power still resides with the DPP to intervene and take over the matter if she sees fit.
He said from a perusal of the document sent from the Unit, there is evidence that can bolster his case for civil suits against the former Ministers.
Williams said whether the Former President, who enjoyed immunity, can be charged will be a matter for interpretation and determination of the Court.
Persons who have acquired housing plots in the area include former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former Ministers Priya Manichand, Clement Rohee, Robert Persaud, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Shaik Baksh and Jennifer Westford.
Others include Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack; former Head of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookoo; former Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon; PPP General Secretary and former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee; former Labour Minister, Dr. Nanda Gopaul and Lisaveta Valantina Ramotar, daughter of the former President, Donald Ramotar. Former GDF Chief of Staff, retired Commodore Gary Best also acquired land in the same scheme.
Best is now an Adviser to President Granger.
The report also pointed to the subsequent sale of the lots acquired by Priya Manickchand and Robert Persaud for $100M and $90M respectively.
The report noted that in 2010, the PPP government, through the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), spent more than $200M to develop the area.
While some former PPP ministers have already began speaking out on the issue and claiming it is a manufactured controversy, the Unit is contending that the former Ministers could be held liable for misconduct in public office.
The unit reasoned that the actions of the former Ministers have shown that they willfully neglected to perform their duties without reasonable excuse or justification to such an extent that it amounted to an abuse of the public trust in the office holders.
“Public officers ought to carry out their duties not for the benefit of themselves but for the benefit of the public as a whole. If they neglect or misconduct themselves by their actions in the course of their duties this may lead to a breach or abuse of the public’s trust. The act of the cabinet members for their benefit is serious enough to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust,” the Unit said.