By Kurt Campbell
Declaring that his company followed all guidelines and legal procedures in the purchase of a plot of land that the government is now seeking to repossess, Chief Executive Officer of Cevons Waste Management Inc., Morse Archer is hoping for a resolution void of any legal showdown.
On Tuesday, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, wrote the company, declaring the sale of the land to Cevons as illegal and asked that they vacate the land or risk both criminal charges and civil legal proceedings.
Speaking to the News Room on Wednesday, a disappointed Archer said the land was purchased from the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) in 2018 for $100M of which $80M has already been paid.
The CEO said, as per the written agreement with GL&SC, he was told that the transport for the land will take three years to be transferred and once that is done, the remaining $20M would be paid.
In the interim, Archer explained, that he was granted a 50-year lease by the GL&SC which he is currently paying on simultaneously.
“This is apparently a standard procedure. I don’t dictate government procedure. So, we have two documents, one is the lease and one is the memorandum to purchase,” he told the News Room.
The CEO said he also received a government evaluation for the land, putting the value at $47M. He said despite this when he approached the Commission, he was told he has to pay $100M.
“It’s not a case that we were specially favoured or anything, we paid a lot more for the land than the evaluation gave,” he added.
Archer recalled that he previously held a lease for the same plot of land from the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, but said when he applied to start construction, he was told by the Central Housing and Planning Authority that permission needed to be sought from the GL&SC.
With GL&SC permission, Archer said his company spent the last year constructing a building on the land and only moved in two weeks ago.
“We went through all the application process in terms of Central Housing approval, City Council approval and Lands and Surveys permission,” he added.
The CEO is hoping that good sense will prevail and he does not have to go to court to defend his purchase.
“All we know is business, we tried to be a dynamic and diverse company, we started from humble beginnings and we still remain humble… we are employing over 230 persons and we try to be humble,” he added.
Archer said it is unfortunate that the Attorney-General did not reach out to him prior to sending the letter but he is open and willing to engage him at any time.
“I’m hoping that we wouldn’t have to reach to the courts.”
Nandlall has already said that Lands and Surveys Commission had no legal authority to lease the land.
To this end, Nandlall said the transaction is unlawful, null, void and of no effect, as is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the company and GLSC. That MoU contained a promise to sell the land.
Nandlall also noted that the former Lands and Surveys boss had no lawful authority to make such a promise for sale. He said such power resides with the President of Guyana and was never delegated to the Commissioner of Lands.
As a consequence, subleases to Sol Guyana Inc and Corum Restaurants Holdings Inc are also unlawful. The AG reasoned that with the entire transaction being done without the knowledge of the rightful owner of the lands, the National Sports Commission simply compounds the impropriety and illegality with which the transaction was done.
Nandlall said the National Sports Commission, which owns the land, plans to use it for the development of sports and the construction of facilities.