…to face charges of public misconduct
FORMER Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh who has been charged in absentia for public misconduct this morning returned to Guyana, top sources have confirmed.
Dr Singh and former head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington were a no-show at a second court hearing on Monday. They had been charged by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) with gross misconduct in public office.
On Monday when the case was called SOCU Special Prosecutor Trenton Lake, while addressing Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, explained that the unit was unable to serve a summons on either of the two defendants to attend court. The two are out of the jurisdiction. The magistrate adjourned the matter until today (Tuesday, May 8), for the prosecution to lay over a return of service to the court. If a summons is issued and it was not laid over to the defendant because they are out of the jurisdiction, a return of service will have to be submitted to the court so that the Magistrate could move on and issue an arrest warrant or take further action.
SOCU said investigators have been trying since 2015 to communicate with the duo but to no avail. Both Dr. Singh and Brassington reside and work abroad. According to information sworn under oath, Dr. Singh and Brassington on Monday, December 28, 2009 by way of an agreement of sale and purchase “acted recklessly” when they sold to National Hardware Guyana Limited, lands amounting to 103.88 acres, property of the State for the sum of $598, 659, 398 (Vat exclusive) without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.
The second charge alleges that the duo on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by way of agreement of sale and purchase “without due diligence” sold to Scady Business Corporation, land located at Liliendaal, ECD, amounting to 4,700 acres, also the property of the State for the sum of $150,000,000 knowing that the said property was valued at $340,000,000 by Rodrigues Architects Associate.
The final charge alleges that the former finance minister and former NICIL’s CEO on Saturday, May 14, 2011 by way of agreement of sale and purchase “acted recklessly” when they sold to Multi-cinemas Guyana Inc. 10, 002 acres of land located at Turkeyen, ECD, property of the State for the sum of $185, 037,000 without first having procured a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.
Both Dr Singh and Brassington had been at the centre of a number of alleged scandals that embroiled the former PPP government. Since the current government took office back in 2015, they were being sought in relation to these allegations, some stemming from the many forensic audits.
Brassington in December of 2015 had said he was willing to undergo public scrutiny in the courts of law, maintaining that he is a man of integrity. One of the forensic audit reports on the operations of NICIL suggests that under the watch of People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, NICIL engaged in malpractices, and had made poor decisions on behalf of the people of Guyana.
The audit which was conducted by former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran had recommended criminal and/or disciplinary action against all those responsible for the interception of state revenues totalling $26.858 billion, in violation of the constitution. Goolsarran had said that several laws were broken. Brassington had left Guyana in December 2015 and was said to be living in Florida, where he is said to be operating a business, while Dr Singh was said to be living in Dubai. The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) which has filed the charge against the two men had been trying since 2015 to get in touch with both of them. However, although the men were abroad, SOCU was conducting its investigations.
The Stabroek News had reported in June last year that among the issues being dealt with by SOCU are the $26.8 billion which was used to meet expenditure without parliamentary approval – this sum represents dividends received from public corporations, as well as proceeds from the sale of state institutions and properties; the agency’s inability to account for $1.3 billion out of $3.7 billion disbursed for the maintenance of interior roads; the $346.4 million for the construction of the High Street building; government’s inability to recover from Clico the bond lodged as security for satisfactory performance and the $51 million the contractor owes government; the $678.6 million paid out for the 2007 Cricket World Cup; amounts totalling over $749 million which were expended on activities unrelated to the operation of NICIL, but were charged to the agency’s accounts; the money spent on the Sparendaam Housing Project (Pradoville 2); negotiations with bidders for construction of the Marriot Hotel and the accountability of money paid out to meet expenses associated with Carifesta X.
The Goolsarran report found confiscating of the $26.8 billion by NICIL between 2002 and 2014 to be a violation of Article 216 of the constitution and the related sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). It also called for disciplinary action to be instituted against all those responsible for flouting National Assembly Resolution No. 32 of 17 December 2012, requiring NICIL to pay over to the Consolidated Fund “all revenues and proceeds from the sale of all state properties, except for those necessary administrative costs for maintaining and running its operations annually.”