Finance Minister Winston Jordan yesterday filed a $200 million lawsuit against opposition parliamentarian Juan Edghill for malicious prosecution, while contending that a failed bid to charge him with misconduct in public office has damaged his reputation and integrity.
The application to the High Court, which was filed on Jordan’s behalf by attorneys Roysdale Forde and Olayne Joseph, lists almost two dozen grounds for the suit.
Jordan was among a group of ministers against whom opposition parliamentarians filed misconduct charges, in response to court proceedings initiated by the state against former Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinued the private charges against the sitting ministers, saying that reports should have first been made to the police.
The charge filed by Edghill against Jordan related to $906 million spent on the controversial D’Urban Park Development Project.
Jordan’s application states that as part of his duties as Finance Minister, he presents financial papers and measures of the government to the National Assembly and to ensure that warrants are prepared in accordance with the approval of the National Assembly to effect disbursements and allocation to the respective budget agencies and or authorities.
It was explained that the sum for the D’Urban Park Development Project was approved by the National Assembly and thereafter was made available to the Ministry of Public Infra-structure from the Consolidated Fund.
It is being argued that the National Assembly, after deliberations on Financial Paper No. 1 of 2016, Section “B” Capital Estimates, approved the sum of $406,758,312.00 for the completion of the Durban Park Development Project.
According to Jordan’s application, the National Assembly then approved the sum of $500 million for provisions for outstanding payments for the D’Urban Park Development Project as part of the estimates of public expenditure for the year 2017. “The Respondent [Edghill] as a Member of Parliament was aware that the National Assembly approved the sum of $906,000,000.00 to be made available to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and as such could not honestly believe that the Applicant acted without reasonable excuse or justification in respect of issuing a Warrant to effect disbursements and allocation to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure in respect of the sum of $906,000,000.00,” Jordan’s application states.
It contends that Edghill was, therefore, aware or ought to have been reasonably aware that the sum was approved by the National Assembly and as Minister of Finance, Jordan was obligated by law to issue the necessary warrant to ensure that the approved sum was available to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, and as a result there could be “no honest belief that the Applicant willfully misconducted himself as alleged by the Respondent.”
The application further argues that at all material times Edghill was aware and ought to have been aware that Jordan, as Minister of Finance, did not pay or authorise the payment of the sum to Homestretch Development Inc., the private developer of D’Urban Park, as is being alleged.
The minister is arguing that notwithstanding that Edghill was at all material times a Member of Parliament, and a former Minister of Finance within the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Guyana, “even an ordinary prudent and cautious citizen placed as a Complainant in the said Criminal Proceedings of Misconduct in Public Office against the Applicant could not have reasonably concluded that the Applicant was guilty of the Offence or even draw an inference that the Applicant was guilty of the Offence of Misconduct in Public Office as alleged by the Respondent.”
It is argued that Edghill’s intention and purpose of instituting the charge was to “embarrass, humiliate and cause the Applicant to suffer public odium and contempt” as prior to that Singh and Brassington were jointly charged with three counts of the same offence.
The documents pointed out that the institution of the charge filed by Edghill were widely reported in the local media and was accessible on social media and on the internet.
It was further argued that reportage of the matter resulted in Jordan receiving telephone calls from family, friends and overseas officials, inclusive of officials employed at international financial organisations.
“The Applicant has suffered significant harm to his reputation and integrity as a direct result of the institution of the criminal proceeding by the Respondent against the Applicant,” the application states.
A hearing on the application is slated for July 13th.