Base­less mis­con­duct charges won’t hold up in court, Nand­lall says

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Say­ing that the mis­con­duct charges filed against for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ashni Singh and for­mer head of the Na­tional In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial In­vest­ments Limited (NICIL) Win­ston Brass­ing­ton can­not hold up in court, at­tor­ney Anil Nand­lall has warned that law­suits will be filed over the char­ac­ter dam­age that has been done.

“We will de­cide how we move for­ward but I have to in­quire and ad­vise my­self as to whether there is a charge called ‘mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice con­trary to com­mon law.’ …You would note that they were not able to find a statu­tory pro­vi­sion un­der the crim­i­nal laws of this coun­try, so they re­sorted to some neb­u­lous con­cept, al­legedly ex­ist­ing at com­mon law, upon which they pred­i­cated these charges,” Nand­lall said dur­ing an in­ter­view with the me­dia on Thurs­day, shortly af­ter the Singh and Brass­ing­ton were charged in ab­sen­tia.

Both Singh and Brass­ing­ton re­side abroad and as a re­sult of their ab­sence the charges were not read in court.

Singh and Brass­ing­ton were jointly charged in ab­sen­tia with three counts of mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice over the sale of three tracts of gov­ern­ment land on the East Coast of De­mer­ara, be­tween De­cem­ber, 2008 and May, 2011. In one in­stance, it is al­leged that the prop­erty was sold be­low mar­ket value, while in the other two the deals went ahead with­out proper valu­a­tions of the land.

The charges stem from crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted by the Spe­cial Or­gan­ised Crime Unit (SOCU) into the find­ings of a foren­sic au­dit of NICIL.

Nand­lall stated that he was con­tacted by tele­phone and told of the unit’s in­ten­tion to charge Singh, who is his client.

He pointed out that dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, no one at­tempted to make con­tact with Singh or him­self though he had in­di­cated that he was the at­tor­ney for the for­mer min­is­ter.

“Sig­nif­i­cantly, it is rather strange that a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the type would be con­ducted and no at­tempt [was] made to seek an in­put from the per­son or per­sons who are the sub­ject of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said, be­fore adding that in con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, con­fronta­tions are held be­tween an eye­wit­ness and an ac­cused per­son.

Nand­lall, the for­mer Min­is­ter of Le­gal Af­fairs and At­tor­ney Gen­eral, also echoed ar­gu­ments made by op­po­si­tion leader Bhar­rat Jagdeo, who has said that both men car­ried out the trans­ac­tions in ac­cor­dance with Cab­i­net de­ci­sions.

Nand­lall stressed that the NICIL board does not act with­out gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval, while not­ing that over the years the en­tity has sold dozens of prop­er­ties us­ing a par­tic­u­lar method­ol­ogy.

Nand­lall was adamant that the duo fol­lowed pro­to­col in dis­pos­ing of the land.

“The im­por­tant thing is that crim­i­nal charges re­quire some de­gree of dis­hon­esty. Where is the dis­hon­esty here? Ashni Singh nor Brass­ing­ton [has not] ben­e­fit­ted from a sin­gle cent from these trans­ac­tions. The monies were paid into the gov­ern­ment cof­fers. So where is the wrong­do­ing?” he ques­tioned, while not­ing that the point should be made that the lay­ing of the charges is noth­ing more than an­other spate of witch-hunt­ing where “the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is be­ing used as a po­lit­i­cal weapon by those in the gov­ern­ment to per­se­cute po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.”

He said the pros­e­cu­tion of the two men is de­signed to den­i­grate and dam­age be­yond re­demp­tion the pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion of “two young out­stand­ing Guyanese pro­fes­sion­als who de­cided to serve their coun­try and their peo­ple.”

He said Singh, who has two young chil­dren, is work­ing in an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion and given the charges he is likely to be fired. “Who will look af­ter his fam­ily?” he asked.

Nand­lall also warned that the fil­ing of law­suits is im­mi­nent. “I hope that the state will un­der­stand that they will have to pay mil­lions of dol­lars at some point in time in com­pen­sa­tion be­cause civil suits are go­ing to be filed when these charges are dis­missed be­cause de­struc­tion has been done to peo­ple’s char­ac­ters and rep­u­ta­tions and peo­ple are suf­fer­ing an­guish and dis­tress as a re­sult of these charges and they are be­ing in­sti­tuted ma­li­ciously and none of them will suc­ceed,” he said.

While em­pha­sis­ing that none of the charges will stick, he pointed out that a num­ber of lawyers who have been hired as spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors are be­ing paid from mil­lions set aside in the na­tional bud­get.

“…Pri­vate pros­e­cu­tors who are friends of the ad­min­is­tra­tion are be­ing paid mil­lions to pros­e­cute these vin­dic­tive charges and none of them are suc­ceed­ing. The whole thing stinks,” he de­clared.

It is al­leged that Singh and Brass­ing­ton sold a

tract of land, be­ing 4.7 acres at Plan­ta­tion Lilien­daal, East Coast De­mer­ara, which was the prop­erty of Guyana, for the sum of $150 mil­lion to Scady Busi­ness Cor­po­ra­tion, while know­ing that the prop­erty was val­ued at $340 mil­lion by Ro­drigues Ar­chi­tects Limited.

It is also al­leged that by way of agree­ment of sale and pur­chase, they acted reck­lessly when they sold a tract of land, which was a por­tion of Plan­ta­tion Lilien­daal, Pat­tensen and Turkeyen, East Coast De­mer­ara, be­ing 103.88 acres, to Na­tional Hard­ware Guyana Limited for $598,659,398 (VAT ex­clu­sive), with­out hav­ing a val­u­a­tion of the prop­erty from a com­pe­tent val­u­a­tion of­fi­cer.

It was also al­leged that they acted reck­lessly when they sold a 10-acre tract of land at Plan­ta­tion Turkeyen, which was the prop­erty of Guyana, for the sum of $185,037,000 to Mul­ticin­e­mas Guyana Inc, with­out procur­ing a val­u­a­tion of the said prop­erty from a com­pe­tent val­u­a­tion of­fi­cer.

Win­ston Brass­ing­ton

Ashni Singh

Anil Nand­lall

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