Chief Magistrate recuses self from Winston Jordan’s misconduct case
Citing “apparent bias”, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan has recused herself from presiding over former Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s misconduct in public office case. She made the announcement on Friday when the matter came up at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
Providing insight on her recusal, the Chief Magistrate explained that Attorney-at-Law Dawn Cush, the latest addition to Jordan’s legal team, previously served as a Magistrate in Guyana.
As such, the Chief Magistrate recused herself of her own volition citing “apparent bias”.
The case has now been assigned to Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus. The matter comes up again on May 12 when the defence will lay over submissions on the mode of trial.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) prosecutor, Attorney-at-Law Tuanna Hardy. Jordan is being represented by Senior Counsel Roysdale Force in association with Attorneys-at-Law Khemraj Ramjattan, Joseph Harmon, Darren Wade, and Dawn Cush.
Hardy is advocating for the misconduct in public office charge against former Finance Minister Winston Jordan to be disposed of summarily. This means that the presiding Magistrate will hear evidence in the matter and pronounce on whether Jordan is guilty or not. Jordan’s legal team, however, has requested for the charge to remain indictable. This way, the presiding Magistrate would be required to conduct a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to decide if there is enough evidence for a trial in the Demerara High Court.
Jordan was initially charged on December 28, 2021, and released on $3 million bail; he was not required to plead to the indictable charge instituted against him by SOCU.
It is alleged that Jordan, being and performing duties of Minister of Finance and being the concerned Minister for the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a company owned by the Government of Guyana, between February 26, 2020, and July 31, 2020, at Main Street, Georgetown, wilfully misconducted himself by acting recklessly when he signed NICIL (Transfer of Property) Order No 50 of 2020, which was published in the Official Gazette, transferring to and vesting to BK Marine Inc, absolutely, all buildings, erections, stellings, platforms, and further appurtenances, that is to say, Mudlots 1 & 2, F of Mudlot 3, A, B & D, situated at North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, being over 2.553 acres, by paying GY$20,260,276 for the property valued over GY$5 billion and being sold at a price that was grossly undervalued to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust and without reasonable excuse or justification.
Jordan was arrested by SOCU, an arm of the Guyana Police Force that specialises in white-collar investigations on December 3, 2021, as part of investigations into alleged instances of corrupt governmental transactions between 2015 and 2020. BK Marines, SOCU said, had only paid 10 per cent of the purchase price, that is, GY$20 million and Jordan went ahead to issue a vesting order, passing the title to the purchaser without the payment of any further sum of monies.
According to SOCU, the vesting order stated that the property is being sold free from encumbrance and liabilities and no further sum of money is owed by the purchaser. It said that the transport was subsequently issued for the property and the value strangely stated on the transport was GY$400,000,000 million. Further, SOCU said that the agreement of sale stated that the title must only pass upon full payment of purchase price.
However, SOCU contended that investigators have evidence to establish that a facility that is a mere fraction of the size of the State property under investigation, located some seven miles upriver, was sold by a private company for US$17 million. It had pointed out that this is only one of several investigations that implicate former Minister Jordan.
While Jordan had previously denied any wrongdoing regarding this transaction, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, had announced that there were active investigations into a number of suspected shady dealings under the former APNU/AFC Government, and the former Finance Minister had been implicated in a number of “nefarious transactions”.
On behalf of the State, the Attorney General has also filed civil proceedings against Jordan at the Demerara High Court over the sale of the river frontage to BK Marine. In this case, Nandlall is seeking to overturn the contentious sale of the State property. To this end, he is asking the court to declare the agreement of sale between BK Marine and NICIL illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy. This matter is still ongoing. (G1)