Head of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) Sydney James and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) Major (rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer are in Florida, USA and it is believed that they will make an attempt to speak directly to Winston Brassington about matters pertaining to NICIL.
Multiple sources confirmed that the duo is currently staying at a hotel in Florida. It is unclear why they are in the US and how long they intend to stay. All this newspaper is being told is that they are on “official government business”.
Stabroek News was made to understand that as of late yesterday afternoon, no contact was made with either Brassington or his US-based attorney.
Brassington in a letter to this newspaper which appeared in yesterday’s edition had pointed out that his attorney had written to authorities more than a year ago indicating that attorney Mark Waldron was one of the persons who could be contacted if there were any questions.
This newspaper, despite efforts yesterday, was unable to contact Waldron.
It was reported by Stabroek News over the weekend that SOCU was making serious efforts to question Brassington who is the former NICIL Director and former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh in connection with the findings of a forensic audit into the management of NICIL. SOCU is currently conducting a criminal investigation and so far more than half of the 86 files which pertain to the investigation have been sent for legal advice.
Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, handed over his report to government about 18 months ago and there is growing concern that an investigation is being conducted without the key players being questioned.
Goolsarran, among other things, recommended criminal and/or disciplinary action against all those responsible for the interception of state revenues totalling $26.858 billion in violation of the Constitution. Goolsarran had said that several laws were broken.
Brassington currently resides in Florida while Singh’s location is unknown. Singh at one time was residing in the Maldives, an island chain located in the Indian Ocean before he moved to Dubai. It is believed that he now lives somewhere in the United States.
Both men are key to SOCU’s investigation and observers have expressed concern that they are yet to be questioned.
Brassington stated in the letter that he had notified SOCU and the police of his willingness to co-operate fully with any investigations they may be conducting. His letter was in response to this newspaper’s article which was published on Sunday. Sources say SOCU and SARU may want to speak directly to Brassington and not through his counsel.
Brassington stated that he was surprised by the report as over a year ago his attorneys had written to James and the Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud notifying of his willingness to co-operate with any probe. He released a copy of the letter which stated in part that “…despite being out of the jurisdiction , Mr Brassington is available to fully co-operate with any investigations, and provide evidence by affidavit or video conference as is necessary to facilitate any inquiries”.
He said SOCU has made no effort to contact him since his attorneys’ letter of April 14, 2016.
Former President Donald Ramotar had come out in defence of Brassington saying that it was nothing more than a witch hunt exercise.
“The announcement that SOCU is going after Messrs Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington is nothing short of a witch hunt orchestrated by the APNU+AFC regime. This regime is not content with dismissing professionals and persons who have made monumental contributions to this country, they are now trying to destroy their lives, attack and besmirch their good names and characters,” Ramotar told Stabroek News.
“Winston Brassington did not resign when the government changed. He wanted to hand over his work in a proper manner and he did. He stayed on and provided answers to all questions put to him and was ready to co-operate with any audit investigation that they wanted to undertake…He did not run out of this country as they want the public to believe. Like Brassington, Ashni never acted on his own. This is not a finance minister who went out and did what he wanted, no. Everything he did was with approval from Cabinet. Therefore to try to insinuate that he did anything wrong is deception on the part of the regime,” he added.