SOCU withdraws charges against Dr. Ashni Singh, Brassington
More than two years after being charged with misconduct in public office, Dr. Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington were relieved of the charges.
The charges, which were brought against the former Finance Minister and former head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Ltd (NICIL) by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) were withdrawn by the SOCU prosecutor.
Attorney for Dr. Singh and Brassington, Sase Gunraj told the News Room that the SOCU prosecutor informed the court that the agency no longer wished to proceed with the charges. The matter came up before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan, at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
Gunraj, who argued that the charges were politically motivated, said he is happy that SOCU decided to withdraw them. Monday’s hearing followed a recent ruling made by Chief Justice (ag), Roxanne George, for the case to proceed in the Magistrate’s Court after being asked to quash those charges on the grounds that they were politically motivated and lacked merit.
Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, had stated that the charges were frivolous and that both Dr. Singh and Brassington were acting with Cabinet’s approval.
“It’s a cabinet decision, which has been issued 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 and the recommendation approved by cabinet,” Jagdeo said.
The charges against Dr. Singh, who was Chairman of NICIL, and Brassington, who served as NICIL’s Chief Executive Officer, alleged that they sold plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara to National Hardware Guyana Ltd, Scady Business Corporation and Multicinemas Guyana without having a proper valuation of the properties.
“They have been charged, not for finding a single cent in their account that they didn’t earn, much less the millions that they said they stole, not for that, but for ‘misconduct in public office’ because they did not do a valuation of some properties that they sold even after public tendering which establishes the market value,” Jagdeo posited.
Moreover, Jagdeo stood in strong defence of Singh and Brassington, saying that the duo are men of the highest integrity. “I know that Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington, despite all that they [Government] might say about them, they have more integrity in their little finger than many of these ministers have in their whole bodies, from head to toe,” he indicated.
At the time, now Attorney General Anil Nandlall had also described the charges as a political witch hunt, stating that “this is another spate of witch hunting that is taking place where the criminal justice system is being used as a political weapon by those in government to persecute…and damage the reputation of two young Guyanese professionals.”
Dr. Singh is currently serving in the People Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government as a Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance.