GuySuCo Company Secretary Frederick Singh says that the probe of a reported breach of the restrictions on the use of land at Leonora sold to South American Woods Inc. would be undertaken by both the state-owned corporation and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL).
The 17-acre plot of land was acquired by the company in 2011 for just over $80 million, with the condition that it would be used to build a wood processing factory which in turn would provide jobs for the area.
The Ed Ahmad company has instead been advertising a housing development called Leonora Projects, inclusive of a large shopping centre and a partially gated housing scheme with 87 houses at the 17 acres of land at Block ‘R’ Leonora (formerly Plantation Groenveldt).
Singh said GuySuco will need to verify that the four houses currently in various states of construction on the land have nothing to do with a wood processing factory.
Stabroek News had been told that two house lots were already sold to a private investor and that homes were being built. Stabroek News also told Singh that upon visiting the site, it was clear that there were lot demarcations throughout the area. Singh stated that the yet to be started investigation would need to determine if there were any irregularities and as of now GuySuCo was not aware of any irregularities.
Singh stated that in fact before any formal investigation it is possible that South American Woods would shelve the project due to the recent controversy surrounding the development project.
Singh noted that it was not until Stabroek News called to inquire about the restrictions on the sale of the land that GuySuCo was made aware that there may be something to investigate.
Singh told Stabroek News that GuySuCo realises that the Leonora development may be in breach of the restrictive Covenant and that an investigation will need to be done.
However, he said GuySuCo has not reached out to the company as yet and he did not say when the state-owned corporation would be making contact. He did not commit to when the formal investigation would commence either.
Stabroek News understands that since the sale of the land in 2011, the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission has not been contacted to have the terms of the sale readjusted prior to South American Wood’s engagement in the development of a housing project and not the wood processing factory.
Under the Lands Registry Act Section 112 (1), “the proprietor of any registered land may apply to the Commission for the removal in whole or in part from the register of any easement or restrictive covenant which has been abandoned or extinguished.”
NICIL, which was the agent responsible for the sale, has since revealed that GuySuCo “entered into a Restrictive Covenant as set out in the terms and conditions of the sale, published in the Vesting Order effecting the transfer of title,” and that “the property shall not be used for any other purpose other than for the construction and operation of a wood processing facility with the option of future development in manufacturing, industrial and commercial activities including the construction and operation of a shopping mall, providing that the construction of the wood processing facility is commenced first” and “that construction of a wood processing facility shall commence within one year of the execution of this agreement.”
Stabroek News has been unable to contact Ahmad at his New York-based office and was told Ahmad was away on business.
Ahmad pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud charges in the United States in October 2013. He faces over 10 years in prison and over US$15 million in restitution and fines.