Cevons hopes for out-of-court settlement with Govt – CEO

…claims paid $80M for Mandela Avenue land

Cevons CEO Morse Archer

While the Government has given Cevons Waste Management until March, 2021 to vacate the Mandela Avenue land that it contends the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) illegally sold to the company, Cevons’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Morse Archer is hoping the matter can be settled out of court.
In an interview with Guyana Times, Archer said he is hoping that a settlement could be reached with the Government outside of the court, since, as far as he is aware, all the legal process was followed in purchasing the land.
“We had purchased the land through the legal source, as far as we are aware. We’ve purchased it for $100 million, and despite the evaluation being $40 million, we have paid twice. So, it’s not like we got any special favour,” Archer told this publication.
“And we’re still hoping, as business people, (that) things can be resolved in a way we won’t have to go to court, that sort of thing… We’ve employed over 200 employees, and (we hope for) some recognition of that, and we have purchased the land through the legal process, as far as we are aware,” he said.

Cevons’ new office at Lot 1 Mandela Avenue, constructed on the disputed land

Further, the CEO pointed out that he had paid down $80 million with the understanding that transport would be received in three years’ time, when the remaining $20 million would be paid over.
He said, moreover, that he presently pays $200,000 per month for the 50-year lease.
When asked if he was aware that the National Sports Commission (NSC) owned the land, Archer said that no one had stopped him after he got permission and began construction.
“When we were applying for permission, we realised we had to go to (the Department of) Housing. When we went to Housing, they gave us a list of things we have to get. This included us submitting a plan to City Hall, (and) we had to get permission from Lands and Surveys. When we went into Lands and Surveys, they told us we have to purchase the land, so we went ahead and purchased the land.
“When we got our approvals, we started building over a year ago, and nobody really stopped us or told us anything. We moved into the office about three weeks ago,” Archer contended.
The land in question: Cevons Park at Lot 1 Mandela Avenue, was used by Cevons to construct the company’s spanking new headquarters which are already in use.
In a letter sent to Archer on Tuesday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, informed him that the land in fact belongs to the National Sports Commission.
“You will recall that your company had previously held a purported lease from the Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown in respect of the same lands which was voided for the same reason that the legal title to the said lands did not reside with the Mayor and City Council,” Nandlall wrote.
Nandlall also reminded Cevons that the then Commissioner of the GL&SC, Trevor Benn, had no lawful authority to sell the lands. Rather, the power to sell lands were at the time with the President by virtue of Section 3(1) of the State Lands Act, having not been delegated to the commissioner.
Further, the AG noted that according to the MOU, Cevons has paid a substantial sum of money for the lease and title to the lands. He pointed out that such a procedure is neither catered for in the State Lands Act, nor is GL&SC in the business of collecting money from companies and signing MOUs with them.
According to Nandlall, the NSC has plans to use the very land for the development of sports and the construction of sports facilities. He noted that the fact that the transaction was completed without the knowledge and authority of the NSC, a body corporate, further compounds the illegality of the transaction.
Nandlall informed Archer that the land was never the property of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, so it had no power to lease same to him, and that he would have to vacate the land by next month. The AG further warned him that non-compliance would result in legal action as well as the involvement of the Guyana Police Force.