Jordan arrested by SOCU over alleged misconduct in public office
– released after falling ill
– Brian Tiwari also questioned over sale of prime waterfront properties
Former Finance Minister under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration, Winston Jordan was on Friday arrested by the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for misconduct in public office. However, while in custody, Jordan fell ill and was released in order to seek medical attention.
SOCU, which is the Police Force’s arm that specialises in white-collar investigations, is currently probing alleged instances of corrupt governmental transactions between 2015 and 2020.
Head of SOCU, Fazil Karimbaksh had confirmed to Guyana Times on Thursday that Jordan was “arrested pending a criminal investigation of misconduct in public office”.
In a subsequent statement later in the day, SOCU disclosed that the former Finance Minister was invited to visit the agency’s Camp Road, Georgetown office for questioning in relation to a series of alleged fraudulent transactions in which he was implicated, involving public funds and State properties estimated to be valued billions of Guyana dollars.
Jordan – in the company of his two lawyers, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde and Attorney Darren Wade – went to SOCU’s office around 10:30h and was interviewed in relation to the sale and vesting of the State’s largest wharf facilities located at Kingston, Georgetown, valued at approximately $8 billion (US$40,000,000) which was sold for a mere $110 million (US$500,000).
That property was sold to BK Marines Limited, owned by businessman Brian Tiwari, who was also hauled in for questioning on Thursday.
According to SOCU, the company had only paid 10 per cent of the purchase price, that is, $20 million (US$100,000) and Jordan, as then Finance Minister, went ahead to issue a vesting order passing the title to the purchaser without the payment of any further sum of monies.
“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. Transport was subsequently issued for this property and the value strangely stated on the transport was GUY $400,000,000 million (US 2,000,000.) Further, the agreement of sale stated that title must only pass upon full payment of purchase price,” the investigative body noted in its missive.
It contended that its 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.
“This is only one of several investigations that implicate former Minister Jordan,” SOCU posited.
While Jordan had previously denied any wrongdoing regarding this transaction, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had in October 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.
These include the hiding of the US$18 million signing bonus which the APNU/AFC administration had received from ExxonMobil, the alleged sale of several pieces of prime land after the contentious March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, and the alleged sale of several vehicles from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to close associates of the then Administration without observing proper procedure.
Meanwhile, during his time at SOCU on Thursday, Jordan was escorted to the Sparendaam Police Station for further questioning but while there he complained of “feeling unwell” and he was rushed to the Plaisance Health Centre.
It was reported that initial examination by health workers revealed that his blood pressure was high.
Following intervention by his lawyers, Jordan was subsequently released from custody and taken to a private medical institution in the city for further treatment. According to reports, the former Minister had suffered a suspected Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), commonly called a stroke. He was kept overnight for observation.
But SOCU in its missive on Thursday had detailed that Jordan was released on his own recognisance “with instructions to return tomorrow” as investigations continue.
However, Attorney Forde had told reporters earlier that his client was not “prepared or be disposed of” to return to SOCU headquarters.
Earlier in the day, the APNU/AFC coalition committed to supporting the former Minister. In fact, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon stated that Jordan would be provided with the best legal representation, calling his arrest “atrocious”.
“We’ve dispatched legal representation for Mr Jordan and I want to give him and his family and friends the assurance that we will stand solidly behind him; we will ensure he gets the best legal representation in this matter,” Harmon said in a message to the media.
Meanwhile, SOCU Head Karimbaksh had also confirmed to this newspaper on Thursday that businessman Tiwari was questioned on his acquisition of the prime waterfront properties in Kingston, Georgetown.
The Government, earlier this year, had filed a civil action against Tiwari’s company; Jordan, and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Colvin Heath-London to retrieve the prime waterfront properties in Kingston. Those proceedings are still engaging the courts’ attention.