Former Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary under the PPP government, Dr. Roger Forbes Luncheon was this afternoon taken into custody by the Special Organised Crime Unit as the probe into the Pradoville 2 land acquisition scandal continued.
The arrest took place at the Office of the Opposition Leader right in front of Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former President Donald Ramotar, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and other senior members of the former government.
The arrest came just a day after Mr. Nandlall dispatched a letter to SOCU indicating that the members of the former government would make themselves available for questioning at the Leader of the Opposition’s office instead of at the SOCU headquarters.
The Senior SOCU detective who effected the arrest made it known that Dr. Luncheon was being held for the alleged misappropriation of state assets and conspiracy.
As he was accompanied to the SOCU headquarters by Mr. Nandlall, Opposition Leader and former President, Bharrat Jagdeo said the arrest of Luncheon will mark a day that will long be remembered in Guyana.
He said the Special Organised Crime Unit appears to be now operating for political purposes, adding that the Unit since being set up has failed to go after and arrest any drug lord or money launderer, but instead seems to be focused on arrest opposition political figures.
He said Luncheon’s arrest “is another grand design to drive fear into the hearts of the people of Guyana”. Jagdeo said the government somehow believes by these arrests and claims that fear will be driven into the people of Guyana.
Mr. Jagdeo defended the party’s belief that SOCU should be coming to them to ask questions rather than they appear at the SOCU headquarters. He said he knows of instances where the Police went to the homes of people to question them, so he is at a loss as to why there was the need to appear at the SOCU headquarters.
The Opposition Leader said Dr. Luncheon was being arrested for acquiring a plot of land, something that he had not done for more than 20 years. The move to arrest and question those who benefitted from the Pradoville 2 scheme, should be seen as a political witch hunt, he added.
SOCU had requested the interviews as part of its probe into the Pradoville 2 land acquisition scandal.
A number of members of the former government, including former President Bharrat Jagdeo, have sprawling properties in the area that was developed exclusively for them.
A few other persons who were also offered land in the area and took the offer up, are also to be questioned by SOCU.
A forensic audit into the land deal, found that the recipients underpaid for the sea side lands by more than $250 million. Additionally, millions more in state resources were used to develop the land for private use.
Persons who acquired housing plots in the area include former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former Ministers Priya Manickhand, 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; former Labour Minister and Lisaveta Valantina Ramotar, who is the daughter of the former President, Donald Ramotar.
Former GDF Chief of Staff, retired Commodore Gary Best also acquired land in the same scheme.
The audit 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), also spent more than $200M to develop the area.