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Former President, others arrested by SOCU, later released; Jagdeo cries “witch-hunt”; Police says more arrests likely

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Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon have been arrested by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for questioning in relation to the Pradoville 2 probe. Former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud and others were also summoned to the body’s headquarters and turned up for questioning.

Dr. Luncheon’s arrest took place earlier today (Tuesday, February 07, 2017) at the Opposition Leader’s Office on Church Street. Dr. Luncheon, whose health has been on the decline had to be aided by the SOCU ranks who were there to take him into custody.

However, he spoke with media operatives while he made his way out of the building and he disclosed that he was being arrested for misappropriation of funds and conspiracy in relation to the Pradoville 2 probe. He added, “I don’t need to again repeat my total innocence and unawareness of the basis for this charge to be arrested.”

Following his departure, the former President and current Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo hosted a short Press Conference, during which he described the arrest as an act of desperation on the part of the current government. “What is so wrong with Luncheon getting a house lot, out of the 115,000 house lots given out to private individuals?” he questioned.

As such, he said the arresting of the Central Executive member of his party is “another act designed to drive fear into the hearts of Guyanese.” Jagdeo added that “they are being guided by a mistaken belief that they will make people more compliant and have people be fearful of criticizing them and exposing their wrongdoing.”

Jagdeo expressed the belief that the actions taken by SOCU are in direct relation to orders given by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan and by extension, the government. He warned that “the misuse of the police force and SOCU is one that will be examined in the future because I believe people will be privately liable for the misuse of their office in the future.”

Before the afternoon expired, Jagdeo himself was called in for questioning. He was escorted by Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James from his Church street Office.

The daughter of former President, Donald Ramotar, Lisaveta Ramotar and Private Sector Commission Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo were also summoned for questioning.

They were all subsequently released.

Prior to today’s actions (Tuesday, March 07, 2017), it was communicated to members of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) that they will be needed for questioning by SOCU at its Camp Street location. However, Attorney-at-Law and PPP member, Anil Nandlall then wrote to SOCU, stating that his clients would prefer to meet with the investigators at the Opposition Leader’s Office.

News Room also contacted Police Commissioner (ag) David Ramnarine who told the News Room that he was informed about the arrests. He also confirmed that other arrests are likely to be made in relation to the investigation.

Pradoville 2 is a gated community located in Sparendaam on the East Coast of Demerara.

Investigations into the allocation of several acres of prime real estate land came to light during a wider probe of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA). During the CH&PA probe, it was discovered that the beneficiaries, certain members and associates of the previous government, grossly underpaid for the lots by a total of nearly $250 million.

On Tuesday, Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall noted that any charges laid against his clients will be challenged.

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