“We have nothing to fear!” – Jagdeo on land deals

first_imgInvestigations of former Finance Ministers…says decisions he, Kowlessar and Singh implemented were above boardOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has brushed off the drive to investigate and prosecute members of his former Administration, specifically the former Finance Ministers; while also addressing the allegations surrounding the sale of land below private valuation figures.The former President articulated this position during his recent press conference. According to Jagdeo, Government valuators have historically provided lower figures than private valuators.He therefore noted that when the State puts property out for public tender, the bids received ultimately determine the market price. The fact that deals were inked at below the price quoted by private firms have been cited as “misconduct in public office.”“You can have any valuation that is an opinion (until) you test the market,” Jagdeo explained. “You can value your hat at $10,000. But if you put it out to tender and you get $5000, that’s the market price. Because you tested the market… that’s a clear process around the world, the valuation could be done.”“You want to sell something, you get a private valuation. You want to buy something, you get the Government valuation. They always value something low, the Government valuators. So this is a standard sort of (practise).”According to Jagdeo, every decision implemented by former Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar was made by Cabinet. Jagdeo noted that in like manner, all decisions he implemented as Finance Minister were made at Cabinet. He therefore questioned the scope of the investigations and why they have not extended beyond 1992.“They will stop at 1992. They will go back to 1992, but will not go to 1991… because if they only go back to that period, a lot of people will be in jail for actual corruption. Notice so far they have not found anybody with big bank accounts. It is these issues.”“There’s nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing to fear about any of those things. All of the cases that Kowlessar (oversaw), those things went to public tender. Everyone is listed in public documents. They went to public tender. There’s nothing hidden about them.”Former Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar, who served from 1999 to 2006, was recently taken in for questioning at the Special Organised Crime Unit’s (SOCU) Kingston, Georgetown head office, and was interrogated for close to five hours before being released on bail.Opposition Member of Parliament and People’s Progressive Party/Civic Executive, Anil Nandlall, later confirmed that Kowlessar was released on $200,000 station bail.Nandlall said Kowlessar, accompanied by his Attorney, Mark Conway, was questioned in relation to matters pertaining to several transactions conducted by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) during his tenure as Minister.Reports are that Kowlessar was first approached by SOCU officials a few days ago, and was asked to report to the SOCU office, but the former Minister never showed up, and this led to the agency deciding to arrest him.Prior to this incident, Kowlessar’s successor as Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL Winston Brassington were both arrested and dragged before the courts on a charge of “misconduct in public office; contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of state lands.Many political and social commentators, even those in the legal fraternity, have argued that the charges against the two former Government officials may be unconstitutional on the basis that they are not “public officers” in accordance with the Constitution.On Monday, a High Court Judge ordered that a stay be placed on the proceedings at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, following the ruling by the Chief Justice Roxane George on the validity of the charges.last_img

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