Senior GL&SC official collected $27M for 6 acres of lands at Ogle
The Attorney General’s office has recommended that the Guyana Police Force be called in to probe the lease of six acres of unmarked lands at Ogle, East Coast Demerara (ECD), for which some $27 million was paid to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC).
This was part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by GL&SC and Janico Industrial Engineering Limited for the leasing of six acres of land for commercial, industrial and real estate purposes. The document, dated May 2017, was signed by the former Head of the Lands and Surveys Commission.
According to the MoU, which along with several other documents relating to this transaction were seen by Guyana Times, “The purpose of this MOU is to… Confirm the intent and commitment of the GL&SC and the Company for the leasing of the said 6 acres of land, owned by the Government of Guyana as part of the stock of State Land, and upon payment of $27,000,000.00 (twenty seven million dollars) for the development of commercial, industrial and real estate activities.”
The company was obligated to make the payments in two instalments of $13.5 million – the first upon the signing of the MoU and the balance by November 4, 2017, or upon the receipt of the lease.
However, it is unclear what the money was paid for since a rental fee of $200,000 annually was also agreed upon in the MoU for the lands that were leased for 50 years.
Guyana Times understands that this was unearthed after lawyers for Janico Industrial Engineering Limited wrote the Commission back in December 2020, indicating that the company is yet to receive the six acres of lands and threatened to take legal actions.
In a letter dated December 22, 2020 – also seen by this newspaper – the law firm of Hughes, Fields & Stoby disclosed that “…it was agreed by the MOA (Ministry of Agriculture) that the consideration for the said lease would be the sum of $27M…”
The lawyers noted this sum was paid in full as per the MoU, that is, the first payment on May 4, 2017, and the second on March 27, 2020. Despite this, however, the lawyers said the company has not received the lands.
“We are instructed that the GL&SC informed our client that before it could identify the precise area of the lease, the GL&SC would have to carry out a cadastral survey of the area. Accordingly, on our client making the second payment requested by the GL&SC on the aforesaid 27th day of March, 2020, it was awarded a Provisional Lease pursuant to Regulation 7(1) of the Regulations to the State Lands Act, Cap. 61:01 of the laws of Guyana. Our client was informed that the precise or final boundaries of the leasehold area would be established upon the completion of the aforesaid cadastral survey by the GL&SC,” the law firm noted.
“We are instructed that despite several months having elapsed since the time of payment of the balance, and the execution of the Provisional Lease between the GL&SC and our client, and despite several promises by the GL&SC to expeditiously complete its survey and execute a full State Land Lease in our client’s favour stating the defined boundaries of the leasehold area, our client has been unable to secure this up to the present time.”
Against this backdrop, the lawyers demanded that the Commission take all steps necessary to issue six acres of land to Janico Industrial Engineering Limited within 14 days, otherwise legal proceedings will be instituted to compel it to do so.
However, <<<Guyana Times>>> understands that there is no procedure under the State Lands Act that allows for a MoU to be signed before a lease or provisional lease is granted.
Moreover, acting Commissioner of GL&SC, Enrique Monzie has stated that upon research, he was unable to determine any vacant, available land under the control of the Commission at the location agreed upon.
He explained in a correspondence to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall that Plantation Ogle has always been the property of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), except for lands that were handed over to the Government for the Ogle Airport and to Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) for any schemes. He added that the lands at the rear of Ogle were previously State Lands leased also to GuySuCo but now vested to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
To this end, Monzie sought the legal advice of the Attorney General on the matter.
In response, AG Nandlall expressed the view that since GL&SC has no ostensible authority over the lands promised in the provisional lease, the issue has raised serious criminal law implications and may amount to the commission of several criminal offences.
“In the circumstances, I advise that this matter be immediately reported to the Criminal Investigations Department, Guyana Police Force, for investigations and possible onward transmission to the office of the Police Legal Advisor/Director of Public Prosecutions for legal advice and/ or charges to be filed,” the Attorney General recommended.
He also advised that the company’s lawyers be informed accordingly.