By Richard Bhainie
FORMER Minister of Public Health and chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Volda Lawrence, made an appearance at the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) headquarters on Tuesday morning. Speaking to members of the media outside the Camp Road, Georgetown location, Lawrence said that her visit to SOCU pertained to clarifying a transaction with her name attached to it.
“It’s not anything really, it’s just a clarification of a transaction that had my name on it and that was basically it; I decided that I will come in, I wouldn’t speak to people on the phone because I don’t know who I‘m talking to,” Lawrence said.
A reliable source revealed that Lawrence was hauled before SOCU to assist with the investigations pertaining to the award of State lands at Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara (EBD). Attorney-at-law, James Bond, and National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Colvin Heath-London, are also being investigated in relation to the same matter.
Bond is accused of benefitting from land deals emanating from the sale of State lands while purportedly looking after the interest of the NICIL, which was presiding over the leasing of the lands. Two businessmen embroiled in the scandal – Life 1 Pharms Inc. Director, Avalon Jagnandan, and Director of A-Z Pharmaceuticals Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc., Eddie Doolal – were also arrested and, reportedly, told investigators that it was Bond who facilitated the deals which saw 30 acres of prime State lands being transferred to Chinese, Jianfen Yu.
The businessmen had reportedly disclosed to police that it was Bond who encouraged them to startup pharmaceutical companies and apply to NICIL to acquire lands; also that it was Bond, not them, who received a hefty payoff from both deals, amounting to more than $100M.
Bond also reportedly received a US$1M payment from Trinidad logistics company, Lennox Petroleum, for the sale of 10 acres of land leased to ARKEN Group Inc. In that deal, ARKEN and its principal leased from NICIL 20.3 acres of land at Peter’s Hall on May 9, 2018, for a 20-year period at US$16,224 per year.ARKEN later sold the 10 acres to local logistics company, GLASS Holdings Inc. on October 10, 2019, for $200M.
The source disclosed that the said transaction Lawrence was questioned about had to do with the account of James Bond and involves the transfer of a large sum of money. The source also disclosed that suspicions were raised with regards to the relation between Lawrence and Bond; and Lawrence’s capacity as Minister of Health and the companies being pharmaceutical in nature.
When questioned by reporters whether there is a link between the lands giveaway scandal and her appearance at SOCU, Lawrence said “I don’t thief, I don’t deh in thieving nothing, underhand nothing, overhand nothing.”