Cevons ordered to vacate NSC land illegally leased by GL&SC
Cevons Waste Management, which has almost finished constructing spanking new headquarters on Mandela Avenue, has been called to account for the plot of land it used to construct the building, as the Government says that the land does not belong to the company.
In a letter addressed to Cevons’ Chief Executive Officer, Morse Archer, Attorney General and Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall informed the company that the land, in fact, belongs to the National Sports Commission (NSC).
As such, Cevons was informed that it has no right to use or occupy the land, which was illegally leased to the company by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) in December of 2018 for a period of 50 years and which it has already subleased to Sol Guyana and Corum Restaurant Holdings.
“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,” the AG’s letter to the company stated, adding that “similarly, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission had no legal authority to lease the said land to your company or anyone else. Indeed, their every purported dealing with the said lands is unlawful, null, void and of no effect. Accordioning, the MOU and lease which contain a promise to sell the lands are unlawful, void and of no effect,”
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 lands 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.
“I hereby demand that you vacate the said lands on or before March 31, 2021. If you fail to do so legal proceedings will be filed against your company and its sub-lessees and this matter will be reported to the Criminal Investigations Department of the Guyana Police Force with a request to investigate and proffer all criminal charges arising out of this transaction,” Nandlall informed Cevons.
It was only a few days ago that Nandlall also wrote to a former GL&SC Board member, who bought land from the agency for a mere $13.5 million, drastically lower than an initial valuation, as well as comparative valuations of similar pieces of land in the area.
The agreement of sale was executed between the former GL&SC Board member and then GL&SC Commissioner Trevor Benn, dated March 23, 2020. The AG pointed out that the former GL&SC Board member was issued with a certificate of title for two parcels of land at plantation Ruimveldt, dated April 15, 2020.
Trevor Benn, who was appointed by the former Government back in 2016, was given his marching orders soon after the new Government took over last year and was terminated with effect from February 4, 2021.
He had been in the spotlight for a slew of land transactions done by the GL&SC under the former Government, which resulted in certificates of titles being issued to persons for lands sold under market value – these are currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
One of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government’s first acts in August was to revoke Benn’s powers to approve and issue leases and licences, or to grant permission for occupancy of State lands. He was then sent on leave, after doing a handover statement to his successor Enrique Monize. This publication was unable to contact Benn for a comment on the transaction. (G3)