Govt to strengthen legislation to clamp down on property fraud – AG

In light of an alarming increase in the number of property fraud cases in Guyana, the Government is working on strengthening the various legislation that prevent such occurrences. 
This is according to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall SC, during a recent appearance on the ‘Government in Action’ programme, in which he addressed the issue and spoke of some of the measures that are being contemplated to protect property owners from fraud.
During the televised programme on Tuesday evening, Nandlall revealed that several persons have already lost their properties through fraudulent acts by mostly unknown persons, coupled with institutional failure on the part of the various state agencies that are involved in the process of the sale of property.
“This type of fraudulent conduct has repeatedly occurred, especially in recent times, with alarming prevalence; having regard to, I guess, the boldness which now endow criminals as well as the fact that you have, I suppose, technological advances made,” he stated.
The Minister went on to outline several such cases, including one wherein an individual was informed by the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) of an attempt to try to register his Public Road Eccles, East Bank Demerara property in someone else’s name with the intention of having it sold.
“So, this poor, innocent man has lost his property. His property is gone to another person, whom he doesn’t know, via transport. So, it means that a whole transaction concluded, transport advertised, passed out of his name into this fraudster’s name, and he doesn’t know anything.
“Guyanese do not acquaint themselves with the Official Gazette, where the advertisement is made, so they don’t know. And this gentleman was forced to take legal action and go to the High Court, where the matter is currently engaging, and (he) is trying to get back the transport of the property into his name,” he noted.
According to the AG, the property owner is fortunate that he got wind of what was happening and intervened before the property could have gotten into the hands of a third party, who could be protected as an innocent purchaser.
In addition to the legal proceedings, the matter was also reported to the Police.
According to the Legal Affairs Minister, he believes that there is an integrated conspiracy at work in committing these frauds. He noted that no one person could pull this off.

AG and Legal Affairs Minister SC Anil Nandlall

“I asked the Crime Chief to do a full-blown investigation into this matter, and to examine it at every link of the chain. If there is a Notary Public involved, who may have executed a Power of Attorney, investigate that component of the transaction. Obviously, the matter was filed at the Deeds Registry, investigate that component; investigate the officers at the Deeds Registry. If it was advertised in the Official Gazette, then let the investigation go (there) as well and let us see where the fraud actually took place,” Nandlall stated.
Though property fraud has been happening for some time now, the issue rose to the fore following a recent ruling in another property fraud case by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which recommended that Guyana’s legal framework be strengthened.
“We have now, supported by a call from the CCJ, examined the system; examined both the administrative apparatus as well as the statutory framework; and see how we can improve the system both in terms of the law as well as in terms of the processes. Administratively, (certain processes) have to be executed when a transport moves from one hand to another,” Nandlall noted.
He went on to say, “I hope that this investigation by the Police will be thorough and will unearth the type of evidence which not only can yield a conviction or convictions in the courts, but can assist myself, as a minister with responsibility for the Deeds Registry and responsibility for the legal sector, to strengthen both, because both are critical; that is, the Law and the agency that administers it.”
Moreover, the Legal Affairs Minister outlined that focus will now be placed on improving access to the Official Gazette, wherein transports are advertised before any transactions are completed and, as such, he has crafted a Cabinet Paper to present to his colleague ministers on the issue.
Nandlall believes the Official Gazette should be accessed at public offices countrywide, and even at some commercial entities; as well as be readily accessed through social media platforms. He also mentioned the need to extend the required timeframe for these advertisements, in order to allow persons to access and scrutinise the Gazette.
Further, the Minister spoke of the need to enhance the quality of persons being made Notaries Public, as well as the processes executed at that level. Strengthening the Deeds Registry Act and the Power of Attorney Act are also on the cards, he added. (G8)