Delay in legal review holding up SOCU prosecutions – source

The filing of charges in several cases investigated by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has been stalled due to delays by the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Police Legal Advisor (PLA) in reviewing the files sent.

“We don’t charge people unless they [the DPP and the PLA] say charge. There are several files… plenty files,” a source told Sunday Stabroek.

British advisor Sam Sittlington, who has been working closely with SOCU, earlier this year expressed concern that many of the cases initiated when he was here last year were still with either the DPP or the PLA.

One of the matters currently engaging the attention of the legal minds is the ‘Pradoville 2’ investigation, which saw over two dozen persons, including former president Bharrat Jagdeo and some of his former ministers, being questioned by SOCU investigators.

The source informed this newspaper that independent evaluation of the ‘Praodville 2’ lands that were allocated, which SOCU was advised to conduct, was completed and a report was submitted. It was explained that while the evaluation was being done, the file remained in the possession of the PLA.

“The evaluation was completed in January and the investigation report has been completed,” the source said, while noting that the report was also handed to the legal advisor.

Given the public spectacle that surrounding the questioning of those involved in the probe, it was expected that criminal charges would be filed in the matter, which was investigated based on the finding of a forensic audit.

A special investigation of the housing development, 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 former PPP/C Housing Minister Irfaan Ali and it was concluded that a criminal case for misfeasance could be made against the PPP/C Cabinet members who benefitted.

It was stated that of the 28 lots, totalling 12.1187 acres, only 3.9693 acres remain unallocated. It was explained that lots were allocated to six Cabinet members—Jagdeo, former cabinet secretary Dr Roger Luncheon and ministers Priya Manickchand, Dr Jennifer Westford, Robert Persaud and Clement Rohee—along with other persons with connections to the government, including DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack and former army head Gary Best.

The probe found that the awardees grossly underpaid for the lots by a total of nearly $250 million, while the state-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, National Communications Network, and Guyana Power and Light Inc were never reimbursed for millions spent to execute preparatory works.

According to the source, SOCU is having significant challenges with a number of the forensic audits. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) probe, which has resulted in court action filed by the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) moving to the court, was highlighted. According to the source because of the court matters, the GRDB investigation is at a standstill.

Sunday Stabroek was also informed that SOCU has referred a number of matters to the State Assets Recovery Agency.

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