PPP dodges SOCU …Jagdeo, other PPP officials duck Pradoville fraud probe
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Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

FORMER President, Bharrat Jagdeo, along with several former ministers of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) who are being investigated by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in the Pradoville 2 case on Monday reportedly indicated via written correspondence to SOCU that they will not be heeding the Unit’s request for interviews.

The State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) had recommended that Attorney General,Basil Williams,put systems in place to facilitate charges of “misconduct in public office” being laid against Jagdeo and five ministers of the former administration: Agriculture Minister,Robert Persaud; Public Service Minister,Dr. Jennifer Westford; Education Minister,Priya Manickchand; Labour Minister,Dr. Nanda Gopaul and Home Affairs Minister,Clement Rohee.

That recommendation by SARU follows an investigation into the procedures employed prior to the transfer and issuance of prime real estate at Sparendaam, Lower East Coast Demerara, to the former government ministers and persons believed to be their friends.

Last November, the Ministry of Finance handed over the final reports of the forensic audits done on the Sparendaam Housing Project- Pradoville 2 (Special Investigation of the Central Housing and Planning Authority) to the Guyana Police Force (GPF), thereby paving the way for the GPF to open criminal probes into the matter.

The APNU+AFC coalition government has indicated that it will be prosecuting those found culpable in wrongdoings with respect to the sale of lands at the Pradoville 2 Housing Project.

SOCU’s Head, Assistant Commissioner,Sydney James,confirmed that some of those being investigated in the Pradoville 2 case have indicated that they will not participate in the requested interviews by his Unit.

Pradoville 2

Meanwhile, Guyana Chronicle understands that the former ministers in separate missives have contended that SOCU did not follow prescribed protocol in inviting them for questioning in relation to state lands used by them and at the moment, SOCU is currently seeking legal advice.

This publication understands that the interviews were scheduled to start this week and the move by the former PPP ministers of government is aimed at the very least at temporarily preventing the interviews from being conducted.

Additionally, it is understood that there are measures available to the GPF to ensure that those invited to the interviews comply. It is unclear which of, or all of, the former ministers of the former administration were invited to SOCU this week. Cabinet earlier this year had approved the appointment of six attorneys to serve as special prosecutors on several cases, including but not limited to, the range of forensic audits conducted by the APNU+AFC administration when it came into power in May 2015.

The six attorneys are Michael Somersall, Hewely Griffith, Lawrence Harris, Patrice Henry, Compton Richardson, and Trenton Lake. Last July, Ministers of Legal Affairs and Public Security, Basil Williams and Khemraj Ramjattan, respectively, were tasked with advising Cabinet on the feasibility of establishing a special prosecutorial team.

Government had made it clear that it has no intention of going after any one person or group of persons and gave the assurance that there will be no witch-hunting. Forensic audits done on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) revealed that some $257 million were spent on development of the Pradoville 2 housing project, and the value of land there should have been $82.8 million per acre, instead of the significantly less sum for which an acre was sold.

“Instead of accumulating all the costs associated with the Sparendaam Project — including the market value of the land — in a special account to be applied in arriving at the price to be charged per house lot, NICIL’s Board and Cabinet were complicit in charging the related costs of $257.049M to NCN in the form of equity investment, and to CH&PA in the form of receivables. “The fact that several key Cabinet members are the beneficiaries of the house lots renders it highly inappropriate for the very Cabinet to approve of the charging of the expenditure to the accounts of NCN and CH&PA,” the audit report stated.

The report which was released by the Ministry of Finance, said the use of a “conservative estimate of $985M for the 2009 market valuation of the land on which the Marriott has been constructed prior to infrastructure being undertaken on a similar size land (makes) the total value of the Sparendaam project work out to $1.242B or $82.8M per acre. This figure should have been used to compute the price per lot. It is not clear: (a) how many lots are involved, and their respective sizes; (b) the basis under which the recipients were selected; (c) how the price of approximately $1.5M per lot was determined; and (d) which entity — NICIL or CH&PA — received the proceeds from the sale of the plots”, the audit report disclosed.

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