Former AG concerned that Jagdeo can be charged as Finance Minister
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is concerned that moves are afoot to persecute former president, Bharrat Jagdeo for actions he took while he served as Minister of Finance in the 1990s under the presidency of the Jagans.
Jagdeo served as Head of State from 1999 to 2006 and therefore enjoys presidential immunity but the members of PPP are worried that he can still be charged for decisions he made as the country’s Finance Minister.
The concerns were expressed by former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall in a public statement Monday evening following the arrest of another former Minister of Finance by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
“Constitutional immunities prevent them from charging him [Jagdeo] for acts done while he was President. Recognising this, they intend to go back to two decades to persecute him for transactions done while he was Minister of Finance,” Nandlall stated.
Sasenarine Kowlessar, who served as Finance Minister from 1999 – 2006, was Monday morning arrested and questioned by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and then released on bail.
Kowlessar’s successor, Dr Ashni Singh has already been charged for alleged misconduct in public office for the sale of several plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) without conducting a valuation exercise.
Nandlall, who is the Opposition’s point person on legal affairs, contended that these investigations and charges are politically motivated “designed to get to the period when Opposition Leader, Jagdeo, was the Minister of Finance”.
“While Mr Jagdeo was Minister of Finance, Dr Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan were Presidents. So in effect, the new theory is that both Dr Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan were corrupt and presided over these corrupt transactions!” he reasoned.
Transactions that occurred under that period include the sale of National Bank of Industry and Commerce Limited’s (NBIC) shares to Republic Bank, the sale of Stock Feeds and Neocal to Robert Badal, and the sale of Guyana Stores Limited to Tony Yassin.
Nandlall questioned how far the authorities intend to extend their investigations into the decisions made by Finance Ministers of Guyana.
“Will they stop at Jagdeo’s tenure as Minister of Finance or will they go over to Mr Asgar Ally, as well? Only time will tell. What I do know is that they will stop at October 5, 1992,” Nandlall said.
It was the People’s National Congress (PNC) – the dominant party in the present coalition government – that governed the country before 1992.
Transactions that occurred during that period include the sale of the Guyana Telecommunications Corporation to ATN; the sale of Demerara Timbers Limited, the sale of over seven state-owned rice mills, and the sale of the National Paint Company.
Nandlall suggested that these transactions will not be investigated by SOCU.
The former Attorney General also wondered whether SOCU will find it necessary to investigate the sale of a property at Bel Air Gardens by NICIL to Carl Greenidge, while he was Minister of Finance.
Nandlall alleged that this transaction was not the subject of any form of tender and “none of which were sold pursuant to any valuation certificates or even at market value”.
Nandlall opined that there is a principle of law which prevents investigations of certain transactions that took place several years ago on the ground that it is unfair and against public policy to do so because of the lapse of time.
In this regard, he questioned why the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is not taking steps to protect citizens from these type of investigations.