Corruption: Ashni Singh, Brassington charged in connection with land sales – Jagdeo responds

Former Finance Minister Ashni Singh, NICIL Head Winston Brassington charged in connection with GY$900 million land sales

Ashni Singh

April 12, 2018 – Demerara Waves

Former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL)/ Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington were Thursday April 12, given until early next month to make an appearance in connection with the sale of three plots of land for a total of more than GY$900 million.   

Winston Brassington

Three charges of alleged misconduct in public office were not read by Chief Magistrate, Ann Mc Lennan when the case was called because the accused men were not present in court. However, the witness swore to the evidence in the case whose Special Prosecutor is Attorney-at-Law, Michael Sommersaul.

The Chief Magistrate deferred the case until May 7, 2018 for report to allow the defence lawyers to contact their clients concerning the charge of “misconduct in public office” contrary to common law.

Appearing for Dr. Singh was Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlal. Brassington is represented by Attorney-at-Law, Stanley Moore. “People make bad judgment all the time; you don’t go to jail for that,” remarked Nandlall.

In the charges seen by Demerara Waves Online News, Singh- in his capacity as then Finance Minister and NICIL Chairman- and Brassington on May 14, 2011 by way of an agreement of sale and purchase “acted recklessly when they sold Multicinema Guyana Inc. a 10 acre tract of State land at Turkeyen for GY$185,037,000 without first having procured a valuation from a competent valuation officer.

Similarly, they are accused of selling 103 acres of state land, by an agreement of sale and purchase, to National Hardware Guyana Limited for GY$598,659,398 (VAT exclusive) with first procuring a valuation.

The third and similar charge also has to do with the sale of 4.7 acres of land for GY$150 million to Scady Business Corporation, “knowing that the said property was valued at GY$340 million by Rodrigues Architects Associate, a competent valuation officer.

Nandlall said persons would assume that, for example Eddie Boyer, of National Hardware obtained the land cheaply but “you should have seen the land when the man went there”, including the presence of squatters.

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Charges against Ashni Singh, Winston Brassington “frivolous” – Jagdeo

Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo came out in swinging defence of former Finance Minster, Dr. Ashni Singh and former Head of the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington who have been charged with misconduct in public office.

“In three years, that’s all you can charge for ? procedural errors and we don’t believe they are procedural errors,” Jagdeo told a news conference.

He said Cabinet accepted a recommendation by the Privatisation Board and made a decision that was sent back to the broad-based Privatisation Board and the Unit for implementation. “It is a Cabinet decision which has been issued back to the Ministry of Finance and to the Privatisation Unit to execute so Brassington or Ashni Singh could not have executed these decisions unless the matter came, the recommendation was approved by the Cabinet,” said Jagdeo who was head of the Cabinet at that time.

With regards to the sale of 103 acres of land to National Hardware Guyana Limited for GY$598,659,398, Jagdeo recalled that there was a public tender advertised including advertisements in he newspapers for almost two months.

Jagdeo said the sale of 10 acres of State land at Turkeyen for GY$185,037 to Multicinema was done after Shri Yogeandra could not conclude a sale for GY$16 million per acre which was the highest bid. “The bid was annulled and 10 acres were sold for GY$20 million which was higher than the bid price,” he said, adding that the remainder of the land had been reserved for the Specialty Hospital and related buildings for the export of medical services.

Unlike A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change administration, he said the People’s Progressive Party government had formulated a policy on sale of government lands.

Declaring that the charges against Brassington and Singh were “frivolous” to plaster their faces in the media to satisfy “some of their hardcore supporters because they can’t go back to the communities and say we lied to you”.

The charges were not read by Chief Magistrate, Ann Mc Lennan because the two defendants were not in court. However, a Special Organised Crime Unit investigator swore to the evidence.

The Magistrate deferred the case until May 7, 2018 to allow the lawyers- Anil Nandlall for Singh and Winston Moore for Winston Brassington- to consult properly with their clients and also give the accused a chance to appear in court.

The Opposition Leader said the David Granger-led administration was yet to charge anyone from the previous People’s Progressive Party Civic administration for  stealing money although 50 forensic audits had been conducted.

“Despite all that they say about them, they have more integrity in their little finger than many of those ministers in their entire bodies,” said Jagdeo. He added that the former Finance Minister and the former Head of the Privatisation Unit were “struggling”.

On the other hand, Jagdeo vowed that “definitely there will be investigations” by independent persons and charges would be laid if there is substantial proof of corruption.

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