US-based Guyanese businessman Ed Ahmad has initiated court proceedings here to have the land he purchased from GuySuCo at Leonora years ago transferred to a company in which he and another New York-based Guyanese are shareholders.
The proceedings were initiated sometime ago and the other shareholder, this newspaper was told is a businesswoman with ties to Guyana. No ruling has yet been made in the case, Stabroek News understands.
Sources say it raised the question as to whether the land was in the process of being disposed of by Ahmad and whether under those circumstances he should have been sold the land. The sources argued that land of that sort should only be disposed of if there was a solid business plan for development. Thus far there is no sign of this. The sources say that there are also questions as to whether Ahmad had paid the full amount for the Leonora land on time and whether there had been any accumulated interest charges. The details of the sale have been kept quiet by the government and its holding company NICIL.
Concerns have been raised by local politicians about the manner in which Ahmad was allowed to purchase the land from GuySuCo. PNCR-1G MP Mervyn Williams said that “there was absolutely no transparency in the transfer”. The government, however, has defended this deal, saying that there was nothing unethical about the transfer.
GuySuCo Chief Executive Paul Bhim told Stabroek News that the land was sold to the Privatisation Unit after it was publicly advertised. It is unclear exactly when the land was sold and how much was actually paid. Head of the Privatisation Unit Winston Brassington told this newspaper, in a brief response, that Ahmad had completed paying for the land.
Williams told this newspaper that even before the land was sold he had submitted a question to the National Assembly where he asked Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud how the government intended to dispose of the land. Persaud, he said, promised that it would be disposed of by competitive bidding after it was advertised.
The PNCR-1G MP said that he saw no evidence of the land being tendered for and challenged the minister to say when the project was advertised, through what medium and who the bidders were. Since the land was sold efforts were made to establish a structure on the land but this construction has since ceased.
Ahmad has been closely linked to several members of the PPP/C, including President Bharrat Jagdeo. Jagdeo admitted that he has been friends with Ahmad for about 15 years but insisted that he would not condone any wrongdoing. Ahmad has set up a hardware business at the Industrial Site premises of the Mirror Newspaper. Given the secrecy surrounding the Leonora deal and Ahmad’s connections, concerns have been voiced about whether all of the requisite procedures were adhered to.
Ahmad is currently facing mortgage fraud charges in the US and was released on bail of US$2.5 million. The complaint is that he conducted an extensive scheme to commit mortgage fraud, regularly lying about applicants’ income and using straw buyers to hide his involvement.
Ahmad is also under scrutiny in relation to a US$40,000 loan made over three years ago to NY Congressman Ed Meeks. That transaction also brought Meeks under the scrutiny of ethics committees.