Home Top Stories PNCR Executive collects US$1M for flipped lands at Peters Hall
Massive land scandal
…Chinese national subleased 30 acres for $100GYD
The massive conspiracy to give away prime State lands, by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, continues to come to light with documents now showing that a People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive collected US$1 million for lands at Peters Hall, East Bank Demerara.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall revealed that the Government is going ahead with its promised investigations into the giveaway of prime State lands during the APNU/AFC Administration. He revealed that almost 50 acres of land were practically given away, through three different agreements, at Peters Hall by the then Government through the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
The PNC Executive at the centre of the questionable transactions was listed as the lawyer on record for the drafting of the three contracts.
The AG revealed that in one instance, 20 acres of land was leased for 20 years to a company with its address listed as Third Street, Alberttown, Georgetown.
The lands referred to as Plots A1, A2, A3, and A4 amounted to 20.8 acres, which were not valuated prior to the signing of the lease on May 9, 2018, for an annual fee of US$16,224.
The land was later sold to a company connected to the oil and gas industry for US$1 million, which did not go to the owner, rather to the attorney on record.
Nandlall said that the address for the company is the same address that the PNC Executive has listed on his bank account as his place of residence.
“The money is paid into the account of the lawyer and it is the very lawyer who draft these leases – paid into the account of the lawyer at a commercial bank…2 payments totalling US$1 million in a commercial bank (account with) the lawyer name and his address – Third Street, Alberttown – at the bank,” Nandlall said.
He said that as the Government continues with the review of all the land transactions, they are finding that the APNU/AFC flouted all processes used to lease or divest lands owned by the State. He added that there was a public process whereby members of the public would have been invited to either express an interest or put in a bid or make an offer to buy lands.
“There is no principle governing or evidence of any principle governing how the prices were determined. There is no valuation certificate on record, there is no market value assessment done or at least there is no evidence of it anywhere. So, one does not know how a particular price was arrived at for these lands,” he explained.
In instances where the lands were gifted away, the AG revealed that the David Granger-led Administration did not ask for any evidence of proposed projects to be executed on the lands nor did they assess how the usage of the land would impact the economy and benefit the Guyanese people.
“In terms of purchase price, there appears to be no principles governing how much will be paid down and when the balance will be paid. Because you have lands that are valued $600 million, that’s the purchase price – how they arrived at the purchase price remains a mystery – but $500,000 is paid down and possession is given to the purchaser. There are cases where not a single cent is paid down and title is granted to the purchasers. That is the extent of the whim, caprice and I daresay corruption that permeated these transactions,” he informed.
Sub-leased for $100
The State Lands Act of Guyana stipulates that when State lands are leased, the lease must state that the lessee must not part with possession without the consent of the landlord (the State) or shall not assign the interest in the lease without the consent of the landlord. If the lessee acts in contravention of that clause, then the State reserves the right to step in and repossess the lands.
However, in the case of the three agreements at Peters Hall, the PNC Executive, in drafting the lease agreements, changed that to state: “the lessee may assign, sublet, grant any licenses or otherwise part with the possession and/or purpose and/or dispose of the whole or any part of the demised property or any building or other erection at any time standing thereon or any right or privilege in relations thereto conferred by this agreement.”
Nandlall noted that the clause itself acts in contravention of the law.
“That clause in this lease was altered to say that the lessee may divest the land, may part with possession, may assign it to a third-party interest. One lawyer did all or most of the transactions – he drafted the leases for Peters Hall by NICIL. When you look at other NICIL leases, that clause is different, differently worded, its worded in the proper way…it’s supposed to be ‘may not without the permission of the lessor’ and herein lies the conspiracy,” the AG posited.
A total of 30 acres was leased, in 15-acre blocks, to two companies with both companies having identical leases for identical blocks of land at an identical rental fee of US$11,700 per year for an identical 20 years. Ironically, both leases were signed on the same date – May 17, 2018. One of the companies has its address listed at EE Eccles, EBD, while the other is listed as Grove Public Road, EBD.
Nandall also stated that the three companies – Alberttown, Eccles and Grove Public Road – appear to be shell companies since they have no assets nor are there any trace of their operations.
The Attorney General revealed that both companies, by way of Deed of Assignment, sub-leased the land to a Chinese national of Wellington Street, Georgetown, for just $100.
“If this is not wrongdoing then I am not sure…I cannot imagine how a person can pay US$11,000 which by itself is a great undervalue for the land and…does not divest for more but for $100. Obviously, you have money laundering implications, you have fraud,” he said.
SOCU, Police notified
Nandall said that the Police, as well as the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), will have to now step in since it appears that there are elements of money laundering and fraud associated with the transactions.
“Obviously, you have money laundering implications, you have fraud. So, this will be passed to the police and SOCU and we will get the legal advice and the investigation will begin… This (transactions) is organised crime in my view and got elements of money laundering and fraud and corruption,” he posited.
He noted that some persons have already taken steps to relinquish their interests in lands obtained under questionable circumstances and the Government is prepared to work with them to obtain lands using a transparent process. He added that the process is one where the public is involved and the allocations are transparent and at fair prices.
“The companies must show that they would be able to deliver on the projects that they want the lands for. So, they have to have financial backings, they must do a feasibility of the project…so you have to have a project and it has to be properly examined and every person who qualified will get portions of land,” he said.
Just this weekend Guyana Times reported that massive tracts of prime State land which were leased at bargain prices under the former Government will soon be the subject of criminal investigations, as the current Government undertakes a review of several shady land deals in the proximity of the Ogle/Diamond bypass road. The review of the legality of these transactions is being undertaken by the Attorney General Chambers.
The Ogle/Diamond bypass road is a massive project conceived as a way of steering traffic away from central Georgetown and the East Bank thoroughfare and easing the massive traffic jams. It is supposed to see some 26 kilometres of road constructed, linking two of the country’s main thoroughfares.
This new road link will also be connected to key communities in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara. These include Diamond, Mocha and Eccles – all on the East Bank – and Aubrey Barker Road in Georgetown. These connections will prove crucial in diverting traffic.
There have long been reports, however, of a land grab in areas associated with the Indian Export/Import (Exim) Bank-funded project. And with the contract for the road likely to be awarded by this year-end, land associated with the project that was secured since 2015 is likely to have jumped in value.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government has adopted a no-nonsense policy on land that was allocated under the former APNU/AFC Government during the time when they were in caretaker status and not authorised to conduct such large transactions.
As of October 6, 2020, five companies had announced that they surrendered to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), large tracts of land that were given to them under controversial and non-transparent circumstances by the then APNU/AFC caretaker Administration.
The companies that have since reverted lands to the State are Navigant Builders Incorporated – the developers of Windsor Estates; Cardiology Services Incorporated; the Corum Group; American Marine Services Incorporated and Supergraphics Enterprise.
In all of those cases, the firms had expressed a desire to work with the new Administration to get the necessary approvals needed to pursue their respective developmental goals.