Institute criminal charges for stockfeeds transaction – Nandlall
The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) placing Government’s shares in Guyana Stockfeeds Inc on the local stock market will not absolve the incumbent Administration of the conundrum that it has placed itself in with regards to this issue.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said in a statement that the move points to an issue which deals with Stockfeeds purchasing shares from NICIL, with the approval of Cabinet, below market value. This was confirmed by Finance Minister Winston Jordan who indicated that the shares were sold below market value at $25 each.
Nandlall’s contention was that arrangement should warrant the institution of criminal charges as the transaction is identical to ones in which former Government Ministers under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration were charged for and are currently before the courts.
“The gravamen of my criticism of the sale was (and still is), that the sale was conducted in the identical manner in which NICIL sold many assets of the State under the PPP Government, but that nine of those transactions are the subject of
criminal charges instituted by SOCU.
He was referring to the case involving former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, and the former Chief Executive Officer of NICIL, Winston Brassington, in accordance with the advice of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Singh and Brassington are accused of selling various properties at prices the State contends were grossly undervalued at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara.
Nandlall therefore argued that since the Constitution of Guyana guarantees to every citizen as a fundamental right, equal treatment before the law, he feels that the Office of the DPP should move to either forthwith terminate the charges against Singh and Brassington or to forthwith institute similar charges in relation to this latest sale, because it is in no different from each other.
“Anything short of this will constitute unconstitutional conduct, discrimination, violation of the rule of law, political persecution and an abuse of the legal process,” Nandlall said, adding that from the statement issued by NICIL, it appears that the recent sale has now been rescinded, presumably, because of these criticisms and the shares have been placed on the local stock market.
Shift in strategy
NICIL on Tuesday announced that 6,099,927 of its equity shares in Guyana Stockfeeds Incorporated are on the local stock market. The placement of the shares on the stock market comes after previous attempts to dispose of the shares failed. The current majority shareholder, Robert Badal, was the only person to make an offer for the shares held by NICIL when they were advertised for sale.
The placement on the local stock exchange also signals a shift in strategy by NICIL, and an effort to widen shareholding by providing more opportunities for the Guyanese public to participate in investments in public companies.
In a release to the media, NICIL said it believes the placement of these shares on the local market will greatly contribute to the depth; diversification and enrichment of the local stock market coupled with the copious potential investments gains to the general public which is likely to ensue.
However, Nandlall posited that “this will not rectify the conundrum that the Government finds itself in, as it is beyond doubt that, it is the Government that is the driving force behind the criminal charges against Singh and Brassington. By those charges, the Government and the DPP have made the selling of State assets at a market determined prices, a criminal offence.”
He noted that assets of the State must, now, only be sold at a price determined by a Certificate of Valuation. So, NICIL is not better off by putting these shares for sale on the stock market.”
Addressing the legality of the criminal charges that Singh and Brassington are currently engaging in the High Court, Nandlall posited that “If these charges receive the imprimatur of that court, then in the future, State assets can only be lawfully sold if it is done in accordance with a Certificate of Valuation, irrespective of the price generated by market forces.”
“In the same vein, any person who receives a benefit as a term and condition of service with the Government is liable to be charged with larceny of the same, even if it receives the approval of the Executive President of this land! That is now the law of Guyana.”
According to the former Attorney General, “this is what happens when politicians are interfering with the criminal justice system in a society.”
Since the NICIL shares in Guyana Stockfeeds Limited surfaced in the public domain recently there has been vigorous discussion of the value of the shares versus the value of the offer made by the majority shareholder.
NICIL is of the view that ultimately, now that the shares have been placed on the stock exchange, the market will eventually determine the true value of the shares.