Chief Justice dismisses DPP’s application to get Court to arrest and commit former Finance Minister to stand trial

Chief Justice dismisses DPP’s application to get Court to arrest and commit former Finance Minister to stand trial

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, has dismissed an attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, to get the High Court to arrest former Finance Minister Winston Jordan and commit him to stand trial in the High Court for a matter that had already been dismissed by the Magistrates’ Court.

A few months ago, Mr. Jordan was freed of the charge which alleged that he misconducted himself in public office by signing the vesting order for the sale of state property to the BK Marines Limited. The transaction for that sale began in 2006.

The Magistrate in dismissing the charge then stated that there was insufficient evidence against the former Minister.

Last Wednesday, without informing Jordan or his Attorneys, the DPP through Attorney Kim Kyte-Thomas approached the Acting Chief Justice seeking the arrest and committal of Jordan to stand a High Court trial.

In her judgement, the Acting Chief Justice stated that while she may disagree with the Magistrates’ Court not finding Jordan to be a Public Officer, there is insufficient evidence against him to support the charge being committed to the High Court for trial.

“There is nothing in the evidence to indicate that there was a clandestine sale of the property in issue, nor that the discharged person benefitted in any way, though it is recognized that misconduct in public office need not involve a benefit to the person charged. The focus of this offence is the willful neglect or breach of the duty by a person who holds public office such as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in this office holder, in circumstances where the conduct must be without reasonable excuse or justification,” the Chief Justice stated in her ruling.

To buttress her ruling the Chief Justice went back the Minutes of the Cabinet meeting of September 17, 2019 and said those minutes revealed that it was Mr. Jordan, as Minister of Finance, who reminded Cabinet that a decision on the sale of the land in issue was outstanding. It is stated that Cabinet agreed to forward the matter for legal advice given what were reservations by the Minister of Public Works.  She also cited the minutes of the meeting of November 11, 2017 which was deferred to allow for a determination of the legal evidence of ownership. 

Attorney for the DPP, Kim Kyte-Thomas emphasized in her written submissions that these minutes were not signed and therefore they cannot be considered by the court.

But the Chief Justice said she does not see that as being relevant since there is no evidence that Mr. Jordan was responsible for the preparation and signing of Cabinet Minutes.

The Chief Justice noted the document on file from the Registrar of Deeds referring to an Agreement of Lease dated December 4, 2006 between NICIL and BK, which is also referred to in the affidavit of purchaser that led to transport being passed in the name of BK.

The 2006 agreement catered for a 20 year lease at an annual rental of $10M, included provisions for an option to purchase at a price of $110M. The company exercised the option to purchase the property by signing a letter of October 23, 2017 with a purchase price of $202.6M.

Given that the transaction was more or less initiated since 2006, the Chief Justice summised, that there is no evidence to prove that Mr. Jordan, willfully misconducted himself or acted recklessly when he signed the vesting order transferring the property to BK. She said, while the payment made was $20M the documentation proves that this is 10% of the purchase price – a deposit that is a norm in Guyana.

“Thus, having considered the application and the evidence provided as led before the magistrate, I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to allow for the order sought to be granted,” the Chief Justice, noted.

The Chief Justice stated that “in effect, the charge in this case is based on an alleged breach of policies which have no statutory or regulatory basis. Thus, it is based on what can best be considered to be a shifting goal post dependent on the policy of the government of the day. … The application is dismissed”.

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