Former PPP Minister Irfaan Ali arrested re Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme

Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme… Irfaan Ali arrested, charged with fraudulent disposal of State lands

Kaieteur News – 30 November 2018. -By Tiana Cole 

Photo: Former Minister of Housing, Mohamed Irfaan Ali

Following his early morning arrest by ranks attached to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), 38-year-old former Minister of Housing, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, of Lot 38 Saray, Leonora, West Coast Demerara, was hauled before the court where he was slapped with 19 fraud charges.

The former minister is accused of defrauding Government of over $174 M, by selling several plots of State lands, below the market value, to former ministers of the then PPP/C government.          

Ali arrived at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts shortly after 10:40 hrs and made his way to Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan’s courtroom.

While there, Ali, who was dressed in a grey suit, opened the gate to the prisoners’ dock where he stood.

The Magistrate soon after exiting her chambers spent approximately 45 minutes reading the charges to Ali, who stood smiling.

Representing Ali are Attorneys Devindra Kissoon, Anil Nandlall, Priya Manickchand, Jaya Manickchand and Sase Gunraj.
The courtroom was filled with supporters, among them former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds. They were several other officials of the former PPP/C government.

Ali was not required to plead to the 19 indictable charges and was released on his own recognizance (self bail).
The charges against Ali stated that between the period 2011 and 2015, he conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government, when he acted recklessly by selling19 plots of State Lands at Plantation Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara. The lands which were sold for a mere $39.8M, are valued at $212.4M, according to SOCU.
Ali is accused of ‘greatly underselling’ the 19 plots of State Lands to former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon; Luncheon’s wife, Floreen Ramnaught; and former ministers Priya Manickchand, Dr Jennifer Westford, Robert Persaud and Clement Rohee, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack; former army chief-of-staff Gary Best, and Fortune Developers Inc. Guyana.
Ali is also accused of selling lands to former General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board and daughter of former President Donald Ramotar, Lisaveta Ramotar; former President of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo and the son of former Labour Minister Dr Nanda Gopaul, Dr Ghansham Singh; former Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Chief Executive Officer, Rajendra Singh; and former president of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Compton Bourne.

He is also accused of selling lands to Former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission Safraaz Khan; former CEO of Guyana Water Inc, Shaik Baksh; along with George Halla and Dave Narine.

After the charges were read, Attorney Kissoon, petitioning for his client, requested for Ali to be released on his own recognizance, citing that he has been a public servant for the past 20 years.
He added that Ali held the post of shadow Minister of Finance.

Following Kissoon’s address to the court, Nandlall told the court that he has never seen or heard of a charge of that nature. He further argued that the charge against his client is the first of its kind to be instituted.

Soon after Nandlall addressed the court, Priya Manickchand argued that the charges against Ali are politically motivated and trumped-up. This, she said, is as a result of him not affiliating himself with a particular party.
SOCU Prosecutor Patrice Henry made no objections to bail being granted to Ali, but asked that it be in reasonable amount.
The Chief Magistrate after listening to both sides subsequently released Ali on his own recognizance. He was instructed to make his next court appearance on January 7, 2019.
After signing his recognizance, Ali and his supporters spoke with the media.

Charges against Ali were recommended by SOCU after a forensic audit report was conducted and revealed that Ali acted illegally with the manner in which he distributed several large and expensive plots of land.

It was reported that after five months of investigation, SOCU completed its investigation into the allocation of lands at ‘Pradoville Two’ to Cabinet members of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic Administration and their close associates.

The investigation into the lands came after a special investigation of the Sparendaam Housing Project referred to as `Pradoville 2’ was completed. The investigation was part of a larger probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), which was conducted by accounting firm Ram & McRae.

The investigation revealed that the allocation of the lands was a clandestine arrangement that was handled personally by former housing minister Ali, and it was concluded that a criminal case for misfeasance can be made against the PPP/C Cabinet members who benefitted.

The forensic audit, found that awardees grossly underpaid for the lots by a total of nearly $250 million, while the state-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, National Communications Network and Guyana Power and Light Inc. were never reimbursed for millions of dollars spent to execute preparatory works.
While the minister has considerable powers under the Housing Act, his role in the issuance of titles was well outside of his functions and powers,” the audit report said.

The report added, “No files were maintained by CHPA for any of the plots allocated by a process that can be described as lacking transparency at best.

It was stated that of the 28 lots, totalling 12.1187 acres, only 3.9693 acres remain unallocated.
Over two dozen persons, including former president Bharrat Jagdeo and some of his former ministers were questioned by SOCU officials in the early stages of the investigations.

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  • The Last Brahmin  On 12/13/2018 at 1:18 pm


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