November 28, 2014

Ramotar dismisses “malicious” media report about private jet travel

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

…in wake of Guyanese pilot being detained in Puerto Rico

President Donald Ramotar has never travelled on a private jet to Puerto Rico or Brazil with former President Bharrat Jagdeo, as has been insinuated by an Opposition-aligned online media entity, Demerara Waves.

On Wednesday, the online news site published what well-placed sources said were malicious reports about Ramotar and Jagdeo previously travelling on the jet belonging to Khamraj Lall, who was apprehended in Puerto Rico following a whopping US$620,000 cash discovery on the aircraft when he landed over the weekend.

The sources said the reports were all erroneous and seemed to be targeting Jagdeo for reasons only those writing the articles would know.

President Donald Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar

When contacted, Ramotar himself stated that, contrary to the reports, he and the former President have never been on a private jet together to the US island of Puerto Rico or neighbouring Brazil.

Observers said there appeared to be perennial efforts aimed at dragging Jagdeo’s name into matters that he had absolutely no knowledge of, or any interest in. Ramotar also confirmed that he and the former President never travelled together on a private jet overseas.

The President, however, noted that he had previously chartered Lall’s aircraft to travel to Caribbean destinations on two occasions and once to Brazil, but reiterated that it was never with Jagdeo. On this note, he explained that these trips were official state visits to participate in conferences.

Lall, a Guyanese businessman was arrested by United States law enforcement authorities after the cash was found on his private plane last weekend in Puerto Rico. He was detained on November 22 on his way to Guyana after stopping to refuel the US island.

During the stop, US Customs officers reportedly became suspicious and the aircraft was promptly grounded by airport authorities. While on the ground, the officers reportedly asked Lall to report how much cash he was carrying.

Lall, who was travelling with his father and the pilot of the aircraft, is believed to have initially said only US$5000 between himself and his father, but later allegedly said they had US$12,000. On closer inspection of the plane, officers found US$150,000 wrapped in plastic bags and a blanket under an exit seat.

As the search continued, several black garbage bags with another US$470,000 in cash was found in a compartment near the engine. Lall reportedly admitted that all the money was his and that his father knew nothing about it.

Lall is the owner of KLX Logistics Inc, located in Jersey City, New Jersey in the US, which offers trucking and warehouse services, and was operational from 1995 to 2010. In Guyana, he owns the Kaylee’s Service Station at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, as well as a limousine service. He also operates a courier service out of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.

Lall migrated to the United States of America some 30 years ago in pursuit of his dreams in aviation. He graduated from the College of Aeronautics with a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology and Engineering, and later obtained his pilot’s licence.

He has been flying since 1994 and holds a PIC (Pilot-In-Command) type rating approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He worked for Pan American Airlines as an Engineer for five years until the airline closed its operations in 1991.

For the past 15 years, he has been freelancing with Ringwood Airport in New Jersey as a flight instructor.

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Ombudsman acted outside remit – Dr Luncheon

Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Dr Roger Luncheon on Wednesday said that the Ombudsman, retired Justice Winston Moore, acted outside of his remit in the investigation of the $69.9 million New Building Society (NBS) fraud.
He was at the time speaking to members of the media during the post- Cabinet press briefing.

Head of Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon

Head of Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon

He stated that the Ombudsman seemed to have ignored the principle of sub judice given the fact that the matter was still engaging the courts.
“An investigation by the Ombudsman of a matter that is sub judice to me, as unlearned as I am, seems to be begging the question whether the Ombudsman ignored or disregarded the principle. How you got involved in this matter if it was sub juice? This is my concern,” Dr Luncheon pointed out.
Questioned about the recent claims by the Ombudsman of the report being leaked, the Cabinet Secretary explained that the claims of leakage takes away from the entire issue of the Ombudsman intervening in a matter that was engaged in the legal system.
“The disclosure, whether leaked or not, spoke of intervention that the Ombudsman had undertaken that would seem to me to be either ignoring or disregarding the sub judice principle,” he said.
The HPS went on to say that if he had been in the Ombudsman’s position, he would have advised the complainants of the legal issues of investigating a matter still engaging the courts.
“I probably would have drawn to the attention of the complainant that this matter is being heard in the High Court and the same (sub judice) principle would prevent me from being involved in a comprehensive investigation kind of which the Ombudsman did,” the Cabinet Secretary stated.
When questioned further about his response to the letter sent by Senior Counsel Ashton Chase to himself and President Donald Ramotar on behalf of his client, the NBS, Dr Luncheon outlined that the correspondence did not warrant a response, instead it documented concerns of the complainants.
He remarked: “I may have to re-read that correspondence to see if Mr Chase was suggesting an intervention by Office of the President, but it is clear in my mind that he wanted the Office of the President to know that these are concerns of my clients.”

Provisions
Dr Luncheon highlighted that he was “unlearned” on whether there were indeed provisions in the Ombudsman Act that allowed him to disregard legal proceedings when investigating a matter.
Additionally, Dr Luncheon was questioned about whether it was within the Ombudsman’s duties to compile a report on the matter given the fact that the NBS is a private company.
He answered that the matter was “on the verge of litigation”.
Moore said he conducted an investigation into the prosecution of three former NBS Managers, including then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maurice Arjoon, following a report by Arjoon who was dismissed from the entity.
During an interview on Wednesday, the Ombudsman said that he was standing by his report and challenged anyone to find fault with the process or the statements contained in the report.

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AFC losing ground in Berbice

Region Six Chairman David Armogan

Region Six Chairman David Armogan

– supporters concerned over “coziness” with APNU

BY MICHAEL YOUNGE AND ANDREW CARMICHAEL

Scores of Alliance for Change (AFC) supporters in Regions Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) have expressed great uneasiness and concern over the ‘cozy’ relationship between their party and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) with many saying they feel betrayed and duped.

A large portion of the current AFC members interviewed by Guyana Times in the two administrative regions were former supporters of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) party.

They said that it is unfortunate that the AFC is moving closer to forming a pre-election coalition with the APNU which is essentially the same People’s National Congress (PNC).

PPP/C Executive Member in Berbice, Fizal Jaffarally

PPP/C Executive Member in Berbice, Fizal Jaffarally

Others could not believe that the AFC was misusing the votes they had cast at the last elections to join an alliance with the main Opposition party which continues to support the dictatorial and hardliner economic and social policies of the Burnham and Hoyte regime.

Mark David told this publication that the party has not lived up to his expectations. He said, “they have joined with the Opposition and have not supported our votes.”

Fifty-two-year-old Parbattie Rampersaud appeared very frustrated when she was interviewed by this newspaper.

“I made a bad choice. I should have never voted for Moses or Ramayya. They let me down with all of the stupidness taking place in the AFC and at Parliament. I want development not confusion. They can’t come back to our village, so they sending different people to calm us down”, she remarked.

Another resident of Region Five, Mark Samaroo, a labourer, explained that he is disappointed with the decisions taken by his party leaders, Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo.

AFC Central Executive Member Rohan Jaggiswar

AFC Central Executive Member Rohan Jaggiswar

“We never voted for them to support the PNC or APNU. They promised they were different and would force the PPP/C to give us better wages. They promised to support things that would see us not having to struggle every day, but they fool we up real good”, he stated.

A large portion of other residents interviewed explained that they are still waiting to see the game plan being followed by the AFC. For the most part, they are disappointed with the posture of their leaders.

“The AFC did a number on us and now we feel foolish. I made all my family members vote for them. Not again. They not a vote from us and lots of neigbours at Whim, Tain and Port Mourant feel so”, the man said.

AFC’s denial

When contacted, AFC’s Central Executive Member Rohan Jaggiswar denied that his party was losing ground in the Berbice area. He insisted that people were still very much few up with the two larger parties that have parliamentary seats.

He denied that there was any collaboration between the AFC and APNU. “The AFC will not join the APNU at the poll. If we win, we will form a broad based government”, he remarked.

Jaggiswar made this comment even though his fellow Executives in Georgetown have announced their decision to join the APNU’s broad coalition and fight what they referred to as the “dictatorial rule in Guyana”.

The Geogetown-based executives have also joined the APNU’s platform to vent their frustration against the President’s decision to prorogue Parliament as opposed to doing so independently.

There have also been several high-level meetings between the two parties aimed at forming a strong front to unseat the PPP/C while the APNU continues to appeal to the AFC to consider a permanent coalition.

Despite this, Jaggiswar says the AFC is using a strategy but is not in partnership with APNU. “Sometimes you have to use political tactics for strategic objectives”, he explained.

PPP/C confident

But PPP/C Parliamentarian and Executive Member in Berbice, Fizal Jaffarally confirmed that several persons who either did not vote for his party out of frustration or crossed the floor to the AFC are returning in their numbers.

He admitted that the PPP/C had lost a small amount of votes to the AFC because of the populace’s dissatisfaction with certain developments.

“Because of the propaganda peddled by the AFC they were able to mislead a number of PPP/C supporters who fell for the trap, particularly in the sugar belt area”, he said.

Jaffarally opined that the PPP/C has learnt its lesson, and is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to regain lost ground.

According to him, there are about four party political meetings held daily in Region Six.

“Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in Region Six more that once every week to hold meetings and the President is in the region almost every week to meet with people”, he related.

He noted that many of the meetings are being held with persons who may have voted for the AFC at the last elections.

“The indication that we are getting is that persons now have a change of heart. People have expressed regret. People have said they are disappointed with the AFC. They thought that it was an independent political party. This is mainly because they are now seeing the connection and the collaboration between the AFC and the APNU particularly when it comes to issues of the national assembly”, he opined.

Meanwhile, Region Six Chairman David Armogan, in an invited comment on the issue, said the PPP/C party had commenced a process to repair its grassroots support since 2011.

He said there are regular meetings throughout the region. “Especially in the sugar belt areas like Tain, Port Mourant and Canje. What our supporters are now saying is that the AFC had made empty promises to them like the promise of a 20 per cent wage increase.”

Armogan added that, “They are sorry now because they were all empty promises made by the AFC before the last election. Some of them are saying that they did not expect that the AFC would have teamed up with the APNU”.

He said more work was also being done in Opposition support areas and strongholds.

The PPP/C has constantly said the missteps and confusion in the AFC as well as its betrayal of Guyanese at the last elections will result in it regaining its majority in the National Assembly.

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Sir Shridath’s Glimpses of a Global Life launched

Glimpses of a Global Life on display at the launching ceremony Wednesday evening at the Georgetown Club

Glimpses of a Global Life on display at the launching ceremony Wednesday evening at the Georgetown Club

book receives high praise

By Alexis Rodney

It was an awe-inspiring event on Wednesday evening at the Georgetown Club for members of the public, politicians, lovers of art and the diplomatic corps when Guyanese diplomat, writer, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Foreign Affairs, Sir Shridath Surendranath Ramphal launched his memoir “Glimpses of a Global Life”.

Chronicling his personal and diplomatic life both here in Guyana and on the international stage, Sir Shridath’s book came in for much praise by both President Donald Ramotar and Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, whose Ministry hosted the event.

The 86-year-old Ramphal, who served as Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister between 1972 and 1975, gave a picturesque account of his service in that capacity; particularly about the role he played in Guyana’s territorial dispute with neighbouring Venezuela and what took place at the United Nations in 1968.

The 624-page book, according to those who have already perused it, provides all with glimpses of a life of dedicated service during Guyana’s infancy and Ramphal’s role as Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Foreign Affairs Minister Rodrigues-Birkett expressed her gratitude to Ramphal, who, through his writing has provided her with many answers on issues which existed during Guyana’s early days and the knowledge to deal with the numerous challenges today.

“From a man who occupied those sometimes uncomfortable seats and who made his contributions in times past, in my view for a better world,” Rodrigues-Birkett noted.

Ramphal was born in New Amsterdam, British Guiana, to an Indo-Guyanese family. He was educated at King’s College London and at Harvard Law School.

He served as the Chancellor of the University of Warwick from 1989 to 2002, at the University of the West Indies until 2003, and at the University of Guyana.

With Ingvar Carlson, he was in 1995 one of the co-chairs of the Commission on Global Governance, which reported on issues of international development, international security and globalisation.

Novelist Ian McDonald said the title of Ramphal’s book falls way below its burly content. A book of such intellectual magnitude and information should have instead been captioned anything within the magnitude of “A major revelation” rather than simply “glimpses”.

Remarkable

He described Ramphal’s book as remarkable, capturing some of the greatest struggles for the freedom of democracy.

“This is an account to be reckoned with by scholars and professionals, by those who want to know the inside story of the momentous events which led to freedom, by those who respectfully look for the movers and shakers who strolled the corridors of world power and most certainly, by all those who enjoy fair, vivid and beautifully composed writings by a master in the craft,” McDonald said.

Sir Shridath was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1966. He was knighted in the 1970 New Year’s Honours list, and invested with his knighthood by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on February 3 of that year. He was also appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1990.

On February 26, 1982, Sir Shridath was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia. He was also the 19th appointee to The Order of New Zealand, that country’s highest civil honour. He was decorated as a Member of the Order of the Caribbean Community in the first conferment in 1992.

Sir Shridath, during his address, said it was an honour to have his book launched for the second time in his homeland. The book was launched some two weeks ago in London, England.

He grabbed his audience’s attention as he read excerpts from chapters of his book. The thrill was obvious on every face.

The writer told the gathering that while Foreign Ministries were important to him, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had a special place in his heart.

President Ramotar, in his congratulatory message, said journalism lost a good man when Sir Shridath moved into diplomatic service.

The Head of State said he was always pleased to see books coming out with details of Guyana’s early stages, noting that the father of two in his usual artistic writing did just that.

“Too many people who have played important roles in national life have left us without recording their memories for us and future generations to have an appreciation of what took place in the many experiences they have encountered,” Ramotar said.

Present at the book launch were also leaders of the Opposition, secondary school students and other invitees.

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Sussex Street koker breached

– Albouystown residents counting losses

BY ALEXIS RODNEY

Pandemonium broke out last evening among residents of Albouystown, Georgetown when their homes became inundated with water owing to a breakage of the Koker at Sussex Street, Georgetown.
The flooding in the Albouystown community comes weeks after a similar situation occurred in Providence on the East Bank of Demerara, which saw residents experiencing

Albouystown was flooded last evening following the breakage of the Sussex Street koker

Albouystown was flooded last evening following the breakage of the Sussex Street koker

major losses.
The Albouystown residents, during their boisterous protest, blamed the Public Works Ministry for the mishap. They told Guyana Times that they are at their wits end at the level of inattention the community is receiving.
Coupled with the rising water in their homes, the residents who had gathered at the site were also deeply concerned over another possible crisis since a high tide was predicted sometime later in the evening.
When Guyana Times arrived at the scene, an engineer from the Mayor and City Council was already at work.
The once gushing water was contained with assistance lent by members of the Guyana Fire service.
Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase Green who was also at the scene, told this publication that she became aware of the situation earlier in the afternoon. According to her, it is alleged by residents that someone might have tampered with the koker’s lock and opened the door.
However, while that could not be proven, she was concerned about the safety of affected residents in the community. “There is still some amount of water gushing in so they are going to activate the pump to ensure that that water that is flooding in the Albouystown area would be pumped out”, Chase Green told this newspaper, noting that the situation was unfortunate.
The koker attendant was not present at the time of the incident. In fact, according to Chase Green, based on what was told to her, the pump attendant is required to service several sluices. She said maybe in his absence, someone may have tampered with the koker.
Residents also complained about the presence of oil in the water. “What we were told is that someone might have emptied some oil from a barrel in the water, we don’t know”.
Chase Green observed that the revetment which was built to preserve the existing uses of the shoreline as a defence against erosion was broken in. This, she explained, has made little space available for the holding of water.
“Maybe what the Ministry of Works could do is build a proper revetment with concrete and bring it to the height of the entrance of the koker which will give you a better capacity to hold the water in these eventualities”.
Residents in their frustration criticised the operation of the sluice, noting that the work being carried out by those responsible is ineffective.
“Instead of them listening to people who know what is to be done, they are not listening to nobody”, one obviously upset resident told Guyana Times. The man explained that the “good” pump was removed earlier in the day and was replaced with another that was worn out.
Another resident, Dexter Haughton told reporters on scene that since February the Public Works Ministry had installed the new pump there. He said while the pump works efficiently form time to time, the buildup of garbage would get into the foot valve of the equipment, causing it to choke.
The pump, he explained, operates mainly when there is intense rainfall. He explained that while he is working to assist the residents of Albouystown with his skill, he is not being given any attention.
“I did what is called a video footage of the different canals in the city. Every time I try to meet with the hierarchies, no one wants to see with me because I am an ordinary person. I tried to see the Minister of Local Government but nothing,” the distraught resident opined.
Residents say the Sussex Street koker was allowed to deteriorate to its current state and leaves much to be desired.
“Imagine we used to play in this as a boy child”, one resident said. “This is how it is though”.
In early October, officials from the Public Works Ministry were forced to replace a new sluice door on the koker which services the Peters Hall and Providence neigbourhood on the East Bank of Demerara.
The koker door reportedly caved under the pressure of the rising tide. Residents experienced severe losses during after that incident.

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Ombudsman admits report was leaked

Ombudsman Winston Moore

Ombudsman Winston Moore

NBS $69.9M fraud probe…

 

– admits he did nothing about it

By Michael Younge

The report compiled by Ombudsman retired Justice Winston Moore into a complaint filed by a former Chief Executive Officer of the New Building Society (NBS) Maurice Arjoon, who was fired and prosecuted following a $69.9 million fraud at the entity, was leaked.

The report was given wide coverage in sections of the media, mere hours after it had been dispatched to a handful of Government officials.

Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Kishore Gopaul

Labour Minister,
Dr Nanda Kishore Gopaul

On November 12, the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News commenced publication of a wide range of articles widely considered biased, politically charged and misleading by those who were named in the Ombudsman’s report, in particular those sections that were produced purely based on hearsay evidence.

Admission

Speaking during an interview on Tuesday at his Brickdam, Georgetown office, Moore admitted that the report was leaked. He, however, defended the integrity of the staff, but admitted he did nothing to investigate how the report was leaked.

Asked what systems are in place there to ensure that confidential documents and other forms of correspondence which are not approved for public dissemination are protected, the Ombudsman could not identify any.

He confirmed that copies of the report were sent to President Donald Ramotar; Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon; Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, acting Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud; and Arjoon.

Former NBS Chief Executive Officer Maurice Arjoon

Former NBS Chief Executive Officer Maurice Arjoon

Moore denied that he deliberately gave information to the press or caused any part of the report to be published. He also denied that his decision to undertake the probe following the complaint made by Arjoon was politically motivated.

Moore claimed that his report in no way touches on the NBS or its Board of Directors.

He said he was more concerned about the prosecution of the men and the systems followed therein to arrive at decisions.

Moore said he is standing by his report and invited those named to raise their concerns formally with his office.

He denied that several persons who were mentioned in the report were not given an opportunity to respond.

Moore said that he did not see it fit to solicit responses from the NBS and its Board as the probe focused largely on the decision to institute charges against Arjoon and two other senior bank officials.

Moore also rejected the view that most of the information contained in his report on the fraud was based on hearsay and gossip as opposed to facts and the circumstances surrounding the initial Police probe into the allegations against the men.

He appeared unmoved by the concerns raised by several stakeholders, including the NBS, about the damage that was done by both the leakage of the report and the manner in which it was reported on by Opposition-aligned media entities.

Moore was adamant that he would not be taking any responsibility for the leakage and said he has since authorised the dissemination of the report.

Challenge

On Monday, the NBS, through Senior Counsel Ashton Chase, challenged the validity of the report on the $69.9 million fraud, which occurred at the entity in 2006, by registering its concerns with the Ombudsman’s Office and the Office of the President.

In a letter addressed to Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, Chase expressed grave concern over media reports which appeared in the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News following the release of sections of the report.

“It seems that the publications arise from an initial or draft report of the Ombudsman into our client’s business and which report has not yet been made public.

“In the first instance, until made public, the report should not be published and the appropriate steps of restraint ought to be taken by the authorities, including the Ombudsman,” the letter said.

The Senior Counsel said his client is managed by a Board comprising persons elected by members of the Society and there is no Government nominee thereon.

“In addition, our aforesaid clients are not a Government Department or prescribed authority and de hors the parameters intended for such investigation by the Ombudsman,” the letter to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat noted.

The letter added that “this is unfair and an abuse of the statutory process”, as it would appear from the media coverage, grave condemnation of the NBS without it having been given an opportunity to make a response has been made.

Damage

Chase contended that certain statements and comments by the Ombudsman were prejudicial to his client, especially bearing in mind that there are part heard proceedings before the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature touching this matter and since it is sub-judice, the Ombudsman having regard to his career, should know the damage inflicted.

“If it was purposeful, it is all the more so, since it features in the newspapers through a former client of the present Attorney General who no doubt participated in the Ombudsman’s appointment,” the letter stated.

The Ombudsman, however, insisted that he did not see how the report could negatively impact the ongoing court case, although legal minds whom this publication spoke with agree with Chase and the position taken by the NBS..

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Region 2 invests $81M to improve drainage, irrigation

One of the canals being desilted along the Essequibo Coast

One of the canals being desilted along the Essequibo Coast

– residents, rice farmers thankful

By Indrawattie Natram

The Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Administration, through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), has invested $81 million to improve drainage and irrigation throughout the entire Essequibo Coast.

The desilting of the drainage canals comes at a time when Guyana has been experiencing unusually heavy rainfall, which has caused floods in several parts of Guyana. The works executed are aimed at helping to eradicate flooding in residential and farming areas on the Essequibo Coast.

Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud inspecting a desilted canal

Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud inspecting a desilted canal

Beneficiaries of the project, predominately rice farmers and residents, are thankful to the Government of Guyana for executing the project at an opportune time. The project, which entails the clearing of most canals and the desilting of clogged facades and conservancies, will enable more crop production as well as encourage more and more farmers to open up more lands.

Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud inspected the work throughout the Coast, including the desilting works at Capoey. According to Persaud, the project will help to improve drainage between Johanna Cecilia and Dartmouth.

The Chairman pointed out that desilting works are currently in progress in the Walton Hall-Paradise areas. Inspections were also conducted at Queenstown which was recently flooded. Persaud said he was pleased with the works done by the contractor.

At La Union, the Chairman, during his inspection, noted that works are being done on the main canal leading to the sluice mouth. This, he said, will allow more water to flow easily, and further enable water to flow smoothly from Queenstown and Annandale.

Additionally, inspections were done at Taymouth Manor and Three Friends sluice where desilting works are presently ongoing.

Meanwhile, farmers said that they are thankful and uttered loud praise for the work done. Most rice farmers pointed out that most of the canals and drainage trenches were invaded by tall bushes and weeds, making the flow of water problematic.

The project will minimise flooding in areas as well as boost production.

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Glenn Lall gets breather until January 2015 in tax fraud case

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall and his wife, Bhena

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall and his wife, Bhena

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall and his wife, Bhena, the owner of Bhena’s Footwear, made their second court appearance at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Monday morning on multiple tax evasion charges.

The case was adjourned by Magistrate Judy Latchman to January 8, 2015.

The Lalls’ co-accused, remigrant couple Naroontandeo and Gharbassi Brijnanan were no-shows for the second time. The four are charged with attempting to defraud the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and by extension, the State of over $100 million in taxes payable on the import of two luxury SUV vehicles from the US. The Brijnanans imported the vehicles under the Government’s Remigrant Scheme allegedly for the Lalls.

The allegations against the pair read that between June 18, 2013 and September 20, 2013, at Lot 200-201 Camp Street, Georgetown, Demerara, a place in the Georgetown Magisterial District, they made and subscribed to false declarations on two Lexus LX 570 motor vehicles to be US$44,158 respectively, contrary to Section 217 (1a) of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:01.

In addition to those charges, they were slapped with two counts of aiding and abetting in a conspiracy to defraud the Government of due taxes. To all the charges, the Lalls pleaded not guilty.

During their first court appearance before Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, the couple were released on their own recognisance as their Attorney, Khemraj Ramjattan, successfully submitted a bail application.

He had noted that the two were well-known business persons with millions in assets; hence, they were unlikely to flee the jurisdiction. While Attorney Sandil Kissoon, representing the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), made no objections to bail being granted, but objected to the duo being released on their own recognisance.

During their previous appearance, the accused were represented by a host of attorneys, namely: Ramjattan, Nigel Hughes, Joseph Harmon, Christopher Ram, Rex McKay, Bettina Glasford, Brendan Glasford, and Robin Hunte.

However, only the Lalls were again present in court on Monday.

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Sattaur refuses to testify

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall

Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall

Glenn Lall threat allegation…

 

– had confirmed fear after revelations about vigilante killing by Kaieteur News Publisher

Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur on Monday refused to give evidence against embattled Kaieteur News Publisher Glenn Lall, who he said back in August had threatened him after the the tax body launched an investigation into Lall’s acquisition of two luxury vehicles.

Lall appeared around 09:30h at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court, East Coast Demerara before Magistrate Alex Moore to answer the charge of using threatening language filed against him by Sattaur. Lall pleaded not guilty.

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

This newspaper understands that there was some difficulty with the timely arrival of the case jacket so that the court proceedings could get underway.

Nevertheless, the charge was eventually read and the controversial publisher pled not guilty to the charge when it was read to him.

However, shortly after Lall’s plea of innocence, the Magistrate informed the court that Sattaur, via his attorney, had indicated to the court that he would not be giving evidence against the publisher.

As such, the Magistrate promptly dismissed the charge against Lall, much to the dismay of many who had turned up to hear the proceedings, including reporters.

Lall himself had turned up with a number of persons in support of him, mainly fringe elements from in and around Georgetown, many of them recognisable from his previous appearance on tax fraud charges at a Georgetown court. They were mainly bositerous and noisy, and appeared to be mocking comments about the court and Sattaur.

When contacted by Guyana Times defence attorney for Lall, Khemraj Ramjattan opined that Sattaur may have been afraid of taking the stand since he would have been subjected to cross examination.

But many observers with whom this publication spoke believe that Sattaur received subsequent threats, which forced him to make a truce with the Kaieteur News Publisher.

The Kaieteur News itself has recently alluded to a meeting which the tax body head held with Editor Adam Harris, reportedly to broker a truce in exchange for a cessation of negative publicity about the GRA in general and Sattaur in particular.

Blame

When contacted on Monday afternoon, Sattaur said he had a change of heart due to the slothfulness of the Guyana Police Force and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in investigating and giving advice, respectively, the matter.

Sattaur insisted that he became wary of the continued delay in charging Lall, claiming that this slothfulness led to uneasiness on his part and discomfort of his staff. This confirms the element of fear which observers alluded to when they spoke with Guyana Times.

Asked whether he felt that he wasted the Police’s time and resources by refusing to give evidence in the case, Sattaur responded in the negative. Questioned as to whether, he was coerced or threatened into dropping the charges, Sattaur again responded in the negative.

Asked whether he did not consider all of the likely implications of his actions back in August when he made the report, Sattaur again dodged addressing this issue directly.

He denied lying about the threats he said were made to him by Lall in August, following the publication of a story in which he (Lall) was named in an alleged scam robbing Government of more than $100M in import duty on two Lexus luxury SUVs.

Sattaur had told Guyana Times then that Lall called him to intimidate him into not pursuing an investigation. But the GRA Head said at the time that all the threat did was to strengthen his resolve to get to the bottom of the issue. But his refusal to give evidence clearly thwarts this resolve.

“Lall called me from an overseas number and threatened to expose me; he threatened to deal with me in a matter, as if I’m a thief and (said) he’s going to do this thing, because I am using my office to deal with the matters I normally deal with.

“He threatened to use his newspaper to expose me; I don’t know what wrong I am doing. If I am trying to do the Government’s work…. I don’t know why people should be upset, if they are doing wrong things, they should be subject to the laws as well,” Sattaur had explained.

Fear

During a subsequent interview with the Guyana Times, Sattaur said he was fearful for his life given recent revelations about Lall killing a resident of McDoom, East Bank Demerara vigilante-style some 20 years ago.

“This individual has a certain propensity to be very vicious. Recent reports I have seen … have made me most fearful for my life right now. I don’t know what more I can do, I have filed a complaint,” he had said.

Sattaur explained to Guyana Times that Lall had shown that he has the “propensity to deliver” on the threats he had made.

He went on to say that “in this case, I chose to go to the Police because of the likelihood that this individual would come through on his threats”.

“He said he is going to give me fire; I don’t know if it’s literal fire or metaphorical fire. The metaphorical has been proven already and I pray to God every day that he does not mean the literal fire”.

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Sun and Sand Hotel construction to begin soon

An artist's impression of the Sun and Sand Hotel

An artist’s impression of the Sun and Sand Hotel

… paper work, surveying being finalised

President Donald Ramotar on Monday confirmed that the construction of the US$54M Sun and Sand Hotel is expected to commence soon, dismissing misinformation being peddled by Opposition members that the project lacks transparency and is falling through.

Back in July, Ramotar had turned the sod along with officials from the Indian owned Sun and Sand Group of Companies for the commencement of work on the hotel.

The Hotel, when completed, will include a casino, along with a commercial block and club house.

Rooms

It will contain 163 rooms and provide jobs for several hundred Guyanese. The construction of the five-star hotel is expected to last for approximately 18 months.

In the interim, that work has been delayed somewhat due to teething issues with getting the project off the work.

But Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan is quoted in sections of the media as expressing the view that there might be more to the actual deal that the government negotiated with the Indian investors.

He alleged that his party was of the view that the project appeared less than transparent and that concession and other facilities may have been granted.

Information

Ramjattan is also on record as giving his party’s commitment to ascertain pivotal information about the deal that could remove any suspicion that it is being used as a front to enter in the lucrative operations in the mineral sectors here.

“We have few details of this deal. It was announced suddenly and we would like to know whether any mining concessions were tied to the hotel construction,” he is quoted as saying.

However, President Ramotar insisted that as far as he was aware, the project was still very much on the cards and there was no plan by the investors to withdraw or cancel their investment in the multimillion dollar venture.

When contacted, Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Irfaan Ali told Guyana Times the same. He also denied allegations that the project had fallen through and promised to share more information on its current status with this newspaper.

Construction

Director of BK International Brian Tiwarie told this newspaper that the company has purchased all the equipment needed for construction to begin.

He disclosed that the officials of the company were working feverishly on completing some very important operational and administrative work.

Tiwarie said that they were still awaiting the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some other important paper work from the Lands and Survey Commission.

That, he reasoned, was responsible in part for the delay in the actual start up and operationalisation of the venture.

In addition, getting the plot of land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara surveyed, on which the hotel is to be built, has also posted a problem.

“Today (yesterday) they went to survey the land but it was wet because of the rain,” Tiwarie said.

He added that the Lands and Survey Commission has promised to get the land surveyed today (Tuesday) which will bring the company one step closer to commencing construction work.

Efforts to speak with Bhushan Chandna, Chief Executive Officer of the company were unsuccessful as he was in a meeting when this newspaper placed a call to his mobile.

The Sun and sand Hotel will add to a series of international hotel companies in interesting in Guyana, including the Marriot and Ramada.

The Sun and Sand Group has also showed interests in venturing in gold mining in Guyana and other sectors of the economy.

The company has mining operations in South Africa and other countries.

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