SOCU withdraws politically-motivated charges against Ashni Singh, Winston Brassington

2 years after APNU/AFC witch-hunting

The politically motivated charges filed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) under the APNU/AFC Government against senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh and former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) head, Winston Brassington were withdrawn on Monday.

Former President and current Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

Confirming this was Attorney-at-Law Sase Gunraj, one of the lawyers representing the high-ranking Government officials. Guyana Times was informed that the matter was called on Monday before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
During the proceedings on Monday, SOCU prosecutors informed the court that they did not wish to proceed with the charges against the officials. As such, the prosecutors withdrew the charges. Dr Singh and Brassington were first charged back in April 2018. They were each released on $6 million bail.
In 2018, after three years of investigations, forensic audits, and witch-hunting, the APNU/AFC Government railroaded SOCU into bringing criminal charges against the then former Finance Minister and former NICIL Head, alleging that Singh and Brassington had sold Government land at less than the valuation.

Former President Donald Ramotar

As such three charges were instituted: 1) the sale of land on which MovieTowne and Massy sit today (10 acres of land at Turkeyen to Multicinema Guyana Inc in 2011); (2) the sale by public tender of 103 acres of land at Liliendaal that now houses one of the most modern housing communities of Guyana and (3) the sale of land at Liliendaal to Scady Business Corporation, a company connected to a major international investor whose investments in Guyana were responsible for the preservation of thousands of jobs.
Despite all of the investigations, the type of charge eventually brought against Singh and Brassington was not found in the statute books of Guyana but relied on a UK law that had never before been applied in Guyana. Specifically, in Guyana, there is no law that requires Government to sell land at or above any valuation
Both Singh and Brassington had always maintained that they did not personally sell any Government land but it was NICIL/Government that sold the land. Singh and Brassington also maintained that they merely acted as directors, and fully complied with all applicable policies and procedures in conducting the sale.

Politically motivated
Dr Singh and Brassington had mounted a High Court challenge to the legality of the charges laid against them by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC.
Among other things, their lawyers had contended that the offence of misconduct in public office, contrary to common law, is an abuse of process, malicious, biased, capricious, arbitrary, and without proper evidential basis. They had further argued that the charges are bad in faith, unreasonable, discriminatory, unlawful, and influenced by irrelevant and improper considerations and motives, null, void, and of no effect.
Dr Singh and Brassington had also argued that they were still charged even though they obtained valuations for lands they sold. The Solicitor General at that time had submitted that the application to have the charges quashed had no realistic prospects of success. The Solicitor General had argued that the DPP acted within her powers in instituting the charges, and that Dr Singh and Brassington cannot prove any malfeasance, or that she acted in bad faith or any exceptional circumstances or that the charges are bad in law.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall had always maintained that the charges against Dr Singh and Brassington “amount to no charge at all” as they are politically inspired.
Nandlall had said that charges brought against these officials were a clear case of innocent people being politically prosecuted.

In 2018, when the charges were filed against Singh and Brassington, former President and now Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had said that the charges were nothing more than a “frivolous” attempt to keep a campaign promise made by the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to jail members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
“It is all frivolous… This Government (now Opposition) campaigned on a promise that they will jail all of us when they get into power because we’re massively corrupt…We were told that we had assets that we were not declaring to the Integrity Commission. We’re told that the People’s Progressive Party and its leaders had stolen so much money they couldn’t stash it in Guyana, they had to stash it abroad. These were the campaign. This was in the mouth of every person who spoke on the APNU platform. Jail, jail these people,” Jagdeo had said.

Cabinet/Govt decision
In providing greater detail on the issue, the former Head of State reasoned that Cabinet had accepted a recommendation from the Privatisation Board, and had made a decision that was sent back to the broad-based Privatisation Board of NICIL and the Unit for implementation.
Jagdeo was quoted on April 12, 2018, as saying: “It is a Cabinet decision which has been issued back to the Ministry of Finance and to the Privatisation Unit to execute. So Brassington or Ashni Singh could not have executed these decisions unless the matter came, the recommendation was approved by the Cabinet.”
Speaking specifically about the sale of 103 acres of land to National Hardware Guyana Limited for $598.6 million, Jagdeo had recalled that that matter had been sent to public tender. He said that it had been advertised in all of the local national newspapers for almost two months before the land was sold.
Addressing the sale of 10 acres of State land at Turkeyen for some $185 million to Multicinema, he said the deal was completed after Shri Yogeandra could not conclude a sale for $16 million per acre, which was the highest bid.
Jagdeo had maintained that unlike the APNU/AFC Government, the PPP had a policy on sale of State lands.

Political attack
Like Jagdeo, former President Donald Ramotar had also called out the then APNU/AFC Government for its political attack on Singh and Brassington, who he had said are “two of the most astute professionals” who served in the PPP/C Government and are two outstanding Guyanese who worked for the development of Guyana.
“The announcement that SOCU is going after Messrs Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington is nothing short of a witch hunt orchestrated by the APNU/AFC regime… Like Brassington, Ashni never acted on his own. This is not a Finance Minister who went out and did what he wanted, no. Everything he did was with approval from Cabinet. Therefore, to try to insinuate that he did anything wrong is deception on the part of the regime,” Ramotar had said.