Weeks after several senior PPP members, including former president Bharrat Jagdeo and close affiliates, were hauled in for questioning over the sale of land at ‘Pradoville 2’ at below market prices, the probe is still ongoing.
This is according to head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) Sydney James, who reiterated that the probe is a complex one. “The investigation is ongoing,” he told Stabroek News on Monday.
Jagdeo; former head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon; former natural resources minister Robert Persaud; Lisaveta Ramotar, who is the General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board and daughter of former president Donald Ramotar; Ramesh Dookhoo, former Chairman of the Private Sector Commis-sion; and Dr Ghansham Singh, who were all beneficiaries of house lots in the scheme, were arrested and questioned before being released without charge on March 7. That same day Marcia Nadir-Sharma, former Deputy Director of state holding company NICIL, was also questioned.
The following day, seven others—former prime minister Samuel Hinds, former housing minister Irfaan Ali, former home minister Clement Rohee, former education minister Priya Manickchand, former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incorporated Shaik Baksh, former labour minister Nanda Gopaul and former public service minister Dr Jennifer Westford—were questioned by SOCU. Subsequently, former presidential press officer Kwame McCoy and former head of the Office for Climate Change Andrew Bishop, Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Ali-Hack and her husband, Moeen ul-Hack, as well as former Chief-of- Staff of the Guyana Defence Force Gary Best were questioned.
This newspaper was told that none of those questioned have been contacted since or told anything more about the direction in which the investigation is heading.
There are divided views on the arrest of Jagdeo, given that he is a former president and whether immunity would apply in his case.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon has said that it is up to the police to determine whether Jagdeo has immunity and he argued that the constitutional protection cannot necessarily save a former president from judicial intervention and criminal prosecution.
A special investigation of the Sparen-daam Housing Project, which was part of a larger probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) was conducted by accounting firm Ram & McRae.
The investigation revealed that the allocation of the land was a clandestine arrangement that was handled personally by Ali and it was concluded that a criminal case for misfeasance can be made against the PPP/C Cabinet members who benefited.
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 Com-mercial Investments Limited (NICIL), National Communica-tions Network (NCN) and Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) were never reimbursed for millions spent to execute preparatory works.
“Our examination leads to the conclusion that the project was done outside of the established procedures and that Minister Ally [sic] piloted every aspect of the transaction without recourse to the Authority. While the minister has considerable powers under the Housing Act, his role in the issue of titles was well outside of his functions and powers,” the final report, which seen by Stabroek News, said.
The report added that the awardees made payments to the CH&PA but these were significantly lower than the market value. “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 further said.
SOCU has already written to the CH&PA asking for specific information