FORMER Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh on Thursday through his attorney Anil Nandlall, has notified the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of his willingness to cooperate with the unit and investigators on any impending investigations relative to him.
In the letter addressed to head of SOCU, Sydney James, and copied to Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud, Nandlall said, “Although my client is out of the jurisdiction, he always was and remains accessible, ready, able and willing to provide all or any information at his disposal which your unit may require.”
The letter concluded, “In the circumstances, feel free to contact me for any information you may require from, or questions you may wish to ask my client.”
Nandall’s submission to SOCU on behalf of Dr Singh follows, former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) head Winston Brassington’s letter published in the Stabroek News indicating that he had notified SOCU of his availability and willingness to cooperate fully with any investigation being conducted.
Brassington’s letter was published earlier this week and also follows an article carried by the said newspaper headlined “SOCU actively seeking Brassington, Ashni Singh.’
In his letter, the former NICIL head said he finds it strange that SOCU has made no effort to contact him, while adding that on April 14, 2016, a letter was dispatched to SOCU and the commissioner of police by his attorneys indicating that despite being out of the jurisdiction, he is available to fully cooperate with any investigation, and provide evidence by affidavit or video conference as is necessary to facilitate inquiries.
Brassington’s missive directed James to his counsel Mark Waldron. However, according to him (Brassington) neither he, nor his attorneys, had received any request from SOCU.
“Please also note that further to my letter of resignation in January 2016 to NICIL, the Board of NICIL confirmed acceptance of my resignation, thanked me for my 20 + years of service to NICIL/PU and paid me my remaining benefits. Since that time, NICIL has sought assistance from me on various matters via email, to which I have assisted by responding as best as I could,” said the former NICIL head.
He said too that in 2015, responses were provided to preliminary forensic audit reports and noted that in December 2015, he had hosted a press conference on matters related to NICIL and its operations.
“I pointed out that NICIL was audited every year under my watch, and clean audit opinions issued. I recall even attending a shareholders’ meeting of NICIL in 2015 under the current Government, where the 2013 audited accounts were approved.
“Suffice to say, it would be nice if due process was followed on matters of interest to SOCU involving myself. I believe that any questions not already answered in prior audit responses or the various publications issued over the years, can reasonably be responded to,” said Brassington.
Meanwhile, Nandlall told the Guyana Chronicle that his client resorted to dispatching the missive on behalf of the former finance minister, because of regular media publications which are believed to paint his client as avoiding investigators.
“It was sent because of regular media publications falsely, maliciously conveying the impression that my client is evading, eluding and avoiding certain investigators and investigations,” said the attorney.
“My client has always remained accessible and was always willing and ready to offer his assistance in whatever way he can to any investigation as is his lawful duty. No attempt was ever made to contact my client, either through him directly or through his family who are in Guyana,” continued Nandlall.
The attorney described articles published in the media about Singh as “defamatory” and noted that they suggest his client is a “fugitive of some kind.”
Both Dr Singh and Brassington were part of management of NICIL under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration and former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, in his findings of a forensic audit into the management of NICIL, had said there was the misappropriation of some $26.8B by NICIL between 2002 and 2014.
In the audit report handed over to the APNU +AFC government in October 2015, Goolsarran said the action of the management of NICIL was in violation of Article 216 of the Constitution, which says that all revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under an Act of Parliament, into some other fund established for any specific purpose or that may, by or under such an Act, be retained by the authority that received them for the purpose of defraying the expenses of that authority)shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Fund.
He said too that there were also breaches of sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act and recommended that disciplinary action be taken against those found to have breached Articles 216 and 217 of the Constitution, including the Board of Directors of NICIL, the minister of finance and the previous Cabinet as provided for under the following sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act:(a) Section 48—Misuse of public moneys; (b) Section 49-Liability for Loss of public moneys; and (c) Section 85—Liability of Official.
NICIL had contested Goolsarran’s recommendation and held that it had “clean” audit opinions from 2002 to 2013, noting that the current auditor general does not deem the entity to be in violation of the aforementioned constitutional provisions.
In 2001, NICIL said it received advice from Ram and McRae that “clearly showed, that NICIL prior to 2002, had violated the Companies Act and its financial statements were not prepared in accordance with applicable accounting standards”.
Ram and McRae the press release added: “Assisted NICIL is preparing its accounts in proper accounting form, after which it received a clean audit opinion. At no time, did NICIL receive advice that it had to deposit all of its revenue into the Consolidated Fund.”
NICIL had said that if it had contravened Articles 216 and 217 then “all state-owned entities would be similarly guilty” as it operates like any other company under the Companies Act.
Also, NICIL stressed that there is no legal precedent or court ruling that suggests that NICIL “is obliged to deposit its revenues into the Consolidated Fund or that Articles 216 and 217 are applicable to NICIL.”
Goolsarran in the preliminary report recognised that from 1991 to 2001, NICIL transferred $3.415 B to the Consolidated Fund.