By Devina Samaroo
Prosecutions could be imminent for former government officials who are accused of wrongdoings in relation to the acquisition of prime seaside house lots in Sparendaam on the East Coast of Demerara, which blew up in a scandal commonly known as Pradoville 2.
The investigation into the Pradoville 2 matter has been completed and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force has been awaiting legal advice from the police legal adviser for over two months.
Head of SOCU, Sydney James said he has not been informed of reasons for the delay but he noted that the probe has been completed in its entirety.
“I cannot speak with respect to prosecutions…I don’t know if I have an authority to ask the competent authorities reasons for a delay but I know it is being addressed by the legal adviser,” James told the media on Monday during an event at the Guyana Police Force training college, Eve Leary.
Former top government officials including former President Bharrat Jagdeo were earlier this year hauled into SOCU for questioning in relation to the investigation. SOCU launched a probe into this and other issues highlighted in forensic audit reports which were handed down from Cabinet.
Jagdeo had sheltered under presidential immunity during his questioning but former Ministers Priya Manickchand, Irfaan Ali, Clement Rohee, Robert Persaud and Dr Jennifer Westford had to answer questions relating to how they acquired prime real estate at a price below market value.
The present administration has been on record condemning this elite housing development and has deemed the transaction criminal because the lands were sold below market value.
However, in defense, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall argued that subsidised housing has always been a part of the legacy of the People’s Progressive Party and that countless Guyanese have benefited from lands sold below market value.
Meanwhile, the SOCU Boss said significant progress has been made on the other probes in the forensic audits and that additional staff were hired as the demands of the white-collar crime fighting agency grew.
“Twenty-five forensic audits have been referred for investigation. We’ve completed three in its entirety: Pradoville, 28 of 67 for NICIL and the law reports of the commonwealth… in addition to that we have several other investigations such as gold smuggling investigations and money laundering investigations,” he explained.
He added that SOCU already benefited from a boost in the staff complement and that recommendations have been made for a further increase.
James also noted that the probe into allegations of money laundering between the Guyana Gold Board and a prominent gold dealer is being finalized and will shortly be submitted to the police legal adviser.