Trumped-up fraud charges against President Ali dismissed
The 19 trumped-up fraud charges filed under the APNU/AFC coalition against former Housing Minister and now President Dr Irfaan Ali over the sale of State lands in “Pradoville 2” have been dismissed.
The case was thrown out by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on Friday morning after the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) withdrew the charges filed nearly two years ago.
The court was told by SOCU’s Prosecutor Patrice Henry the charges were being withdrawn in the interest of smooth and effective governance.
Prior to this, Ali’s lawyer, Attorney Devindra Kissoon had written the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as approach the Chief Magistrate and SOCU to have the charges dropped on the ground that the President has immunity against any criminal proceedings under Article 182 (2) of the Constitution.
This article states: “Whilst any person holds or perform the functions of the office of the President, no criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him or her in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in his or her private capacity and no civil proceedings shall be instituted or continued in respect of which relief is claimed against him or her for anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in his or her private capacity.”
In his letter to the DPP dated August 11, Attorney Kissoon argued that proceeding with the charges is unconstitutional.
He pointed to pertinent sections of the Code of Prosecution, established in 2018, specifically drawing attention to Sections 3.3 which requires prosecutors to ensure the “law is properly applied” and 3.4 which requires prosecutors to “invite the court to stop proceedings if the point is reached at where there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Kissoon also reminded the DPP of sections of the code which does not require prosecution in the public interest.
“[These] sections of the Code, by which the DPP is bound, mandate that the charges must be withdrawn since (i) they have no lawful basis, (ii) proceeding with the charges would be unconstitutional, (iii) President Ali is immune from prosecution, (iv) the charges constitute an abuse of the criminal process and (v) the public interest does not warrant prosecution of the President,” the lawyer contended.
To this end, he went on to request the DPP to immediately discontinue the charges against the Head of State using powers given to her under Article 187 of the Constitution.
After being hauled before the court on the 19 fraud-related charges in November 2018, Ali had moved to the High Court to challenge the merit of the case, thus putting the proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts on hold.
The matter was then taken to the Court of Appeal, which was expected to hand down a ruling on Friday but given that SOCU has withdrawn the charges, Attorney Kissoon also consequently withdrew his appeal before the court.
SOCU was accusing the former Minister of selling 19 plots of land located at Goedverwagting and Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, below their valued prices.
But Ali, in his writ filed, contended that the case, related to the sale of lands at Pradoville Two in Plantation Sparendaam, is tantamount to an abuse of the court’s process.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), of which Ali is a part and successfully led into office at the March 2 polls, has long held the view that the charges were politically motivated and formed part of the previous Administration’s attempts at witch-hunting.