Guyana Politics: Irfaan Ali’s candidacy is not diminished by fraud charges – says Jagdeo

PPP Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali

During a press conference, yesterday, Jagdeo said that Ali is still a good candidate because the voters know that the charges brought before him were fueled by ulterior motives.

“People know,” Jagdeo said. “People understand that these are politically motivated; done by an agency that is corrupt.”     

The agency he was referring to was the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). For some time, the Opposition Leader has said that there is widespread corruption in the agency, and that it is a political tool used by Government to harass and malign its political opponents.

“So, SOCU did those on instruction from Government, and the fact is that Irfaan Ali was not a beneficiary of any of those things.”

He said that it is telling, the fact that Irfaan Ali was charged alone, and not all the persons implicated in the scheme.

“They should have charged the 19 other persons, including me. They should have charged us, but they focused on our candidates – potential candidates, now, our candidate.”

“Anil Nandlall got charged for couple law books and Ali for this.”

Last year, a charge of fraudulent conversion was brought against another member of the PPP, a prospective presidential candidate at the time, Anil Nandlall.

It is alleged that, between May 18 and May 29, 2015, the former Attorney General fraudulently converted 14 Commonwealth Law Reports valued at $2,313,853, property of the Ministry of Legal Affairs – where he worked until the then PPP Government was unseated in the 2015 General election – to his own use and benefit.

“They were trying to decimate our leadership,” the Opposition Leader told Kaieteur News yesterday.
The charges against Ali state that between the period 2011 and 2015, he, as Minister of Housing, conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government, when he acted recklessly by selling 19 plots of state lands at Plantations Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara.

The lands, which were sold for $39.8M, are valued at $212.4M, according to SOCU.

According to SOCU, Ali is accused of ‘grossly 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, 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. Ali was arrested and charged after a probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), was conducted by accounting firm Ram & McRae, and forwarded to SOCU for investigation.

Ali has since been released on self-bail by the lower court.

He was, however, not required to plead to the charges since they were indictable.

Ali, through his lawyers, Anil Nandlall and Associates, had moved to the High Court where a challenge of the legality of the charges was mounted.

At the High Court, Ali, among other things, had requested an order of Certiorari quashing the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge him with the offence of conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law. His basis was that the charges were irrational, biased, and influenced by improper considerations and motives.

Justice Franklyn Holder refused to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant, Irfaan Ali, on the condition that the Court does not intend to interfere with a Prosecutorial decision to institute criminal charges. It would only do so in extreme and very exceptional circumstances.
Justice Holder did not find those to apply to Ali’s challenge.

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