Brassington, Ashni Singh charged with misconduct in public office

-sale of land to National Hardware, cinema complex cited in charges

Winston Brassington (left) and Ashni Singh

Former Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington were today charged in absentia with three counts of misconduct in public office.

The charges against the two were read before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court. They were jointly charged.

The charges against Singh and Brassington alleged that the misconduct in public office occurred between December 2008 and 2009 and in May 2011.

The first joint charge stated that in 2008 while Singh was the Minister of Finance and Chairman of NICIL, he sold Scady Business Corporation a tract of land that is 4.7000 acres, lettered RU and XXX, being a portion of Plantation Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara which is the property of Guyana for the sum of $150M while knowing that the property was valued at $340M when valued by Rodrigues Architects’ asset valuation officer.

The second joint charge alleged that while Singh was Minister of Finance and Chairman of NICIL, on December 28, 2009 by way of agreement of sale and purchase he acted recklessly when he sold to National Hardware Guyana Limited a tract of land, plot letter LP, a portion of Area LPP of Plantation Liliendaal, Pattensen and Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, that is 103.88 acres, property of Guyana for $598.659.398, VAT exclusive without having a valuation of the property from a competent valuation officer.

In the third joint charge, Singh and Brassington were jointly charged for the sale of land to Multi- Cinema Guyana. The charge stated that on May 14 2011, while Singh was the Minister of Finance and Brassington was the Chairman of NICIL, they sold a tract of land of 10.002 acres, letter A-A being a portion of Plantation Turkeyen situated on the East Coast Demerara and property of Guyana for the sum of $185.037.000 without procuring a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.

The charges were filed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

Singh and Brassington were represented by attorney at law Stanley Moore. Michael Somersall is prosecuting on behalf of SOCU.

The charges today will be seen as the most serious to date against any member of former PPP/C administrations and particularly under the tenure of former President Bharrat Jagdeo. The three counts pertain to matters under the Jagdeo presidency.

On June 25th 2017, the Sunday Stabroek had reported that serious efforts were being made by SOCU to question Brassington and Singh in connection with the findings of a forensic audit into the management of NICIL.

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran handed over his report to government in December 2015.

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 and Singh, both of whom reside abroad, were said to be vital to the investigation, as, based on the findings, they operated outside of their mandates and made decisions unlawfully. Sources at the time said that investigators were not prepared to wait until they were found.

Among the issues that were being dealt with by SOCU last year were the $26.8 billion which was used to meet expenditure without parliamentary approval – this sum represented dividends received from public corporations as well as proceeds from the sale of state institutions and properties; the agency’s inability to account for $1.3 billion out of $3.7 billion disbursed for the maintenance of interior roads; the $346.4 million for the construction of a High Street building, government’s inability to recover from Clico the bond lodged as security for satisfactory performance and the $51 million the contractor owed government; the $678.6 million paid out for the 2007 Cricket World Cup; amounts totalling over $749 million which were expended on activities unrelated to the operation of NICIL but were charged to the agency’s accounts; the money spent on the Sparendaam Housing Project (Pradoville 2); negotiations with bidders for the construction of the Marriott Hotel and the accountability of money paid out to meet expenses associated with Carifesta X.