The report into the controversial Pradoville Two land deal which was compiled by the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) is now at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
This is according to SARU head Professor Clive Thomas who told Stabroek News yesterday that the report was sent to the DPP’s Chambers on October 16. He said that on October 19, he received an acknowledgement letter from DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack to which he responded on October 23.
Ali-Hack along with a number of the previous government’s cabinet ministers, friends and associates benefited under an arrangement which saw them paying for seaside land at what has been described as far below market prices. In this regard it is expected that the DPP would recuse herself from reviewing any aspect of the case.
When Stabroek News called the chambers yesterday the secretary said that Ali-Hack was out of office and that she was not sure that she would be returning. The secretary said too that the communications officer is currently on leave and would be back sometime next week. She indicated that no one in the chambers was authorized to give out information over the telephone.
This newspaper had attempted to speak to Ali-Hack at Parliament last Thursday on the Pradoville Two matter but was unsuccessful as she said that she had no comment.
At a press conference yesterday, Attorney General Basil Williams said that he has been unable to address the civil side of the issue as he has just returned from official duties in Paris, France.
He said that to deal with the issue “you have to get the requisite evidence and so (on) from the unit that sent it over”.
According to Williams, SARU has since sent its report to the DPP and the office of the Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan. “Once you have the evidence for the civil action that is evidence for criminal action…criminal action is swifter so we need to get the evidence”, he stressed during a media briefing at his Carmichael Street office.
He later said that millions of dollars were spent on those lands “to bring it up” to standard before it was given by the former administration. “So it is not just raw land that was there”, he said adding that who are the rightful owners of the land is an issue that ought to be explored. He said that there is a school of thought that it was communal land owned by the people of Sparendaam/ Plaisance.
He questioned how it was that it was just released into the custody of the previous government to do what was eventually done with it. “I don’t know if they didn’t have the vision to see that this would lead them into trouble”, he said.
SARU’s report which was obtained by the press a few weeks ago stated “At the time of the sale the lands were grossly undervalued and sold substantially lower than the market value for the land thereby depriving the state of its full benefits”. It was noted that the lands were sold for $114 per square foot.
The ministers who were said to have benefited are Jennifer Westford, Priya Manickchand, Clement Rohee and Robert Persaud. Former president Bharrat Jagdeo owns almost two acres of land in the scheme, where he currently lives.
Among the other beneficiaries listed in the report are former army chief of staff and current presidential advisor on the environment Rear Admiral (rtd) Best and Ali-Hack and her husband Moeenul Hack.
The report also noted that transfers and subsequent sales of properties had conditions attached, including that the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) would have to sign off on any sale before 10 years of ownership.
Both Manickchand and Persaud according to the report sold their lands for $100M and $90M without any written permission.