SOCU chargesActing Chief Justice Roxane George, SC heard further arguments from attorneys representing former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, as the challenge to their misconduct in public office charges continued at the High Court on Monday.Attorneys Anil Nandlall and Ronald Burch-Smith appeared on behalf of the defendants, who were released on $6 million each.During Monday’s proceedings, Nandlall disputed the application of the British common law principle to Guyana’s laws, having cited conflicts with this country’s Constitution with the definition of a public officer. With several legal citations, the former Attorney General noted that the particulars of the offence for which the duo is charged has “no reference” that Singh and Brassington are public officers.“This is a fundamental defect, as the offence is misconduct in public office. They have made no allegation that the two men were public officers, so an important ingredient is missing in the charge, on the face of it,” Nandall outlined to JusticeDr Ashni Singh and Winston BrassingtonGeorge.He held to his position that the charge only has two elements; namely, ‘misconduct’ and ‘public office’. He outlined further that for misconduct to be occasioned, evidence would be needed to show high degree of recklessness or great dishonesty.“There must be an element of culpability,” the lawyer stressed.He stated that his legal team intends to exhibit an advertisement for the lands under question, to which the Judge responded that it should have already been done. Nevertheless, Nandall told the acting Chief Justice that it would be a worrying development for citizens to face charges for having accepted a lower valuation ($6 million against $12 million) where the lower valuation was calculated by Government’s own Chief Valuation Officer.“Our criminal law can never be so subjective, so unpredictable, so dysfunctional…If there’s another Executive Government that starts to review this Government’s Executive Policies and starts to pursue charges, where will it end?” Nandlall questioned.His colleague Burch-Smith observed that the former NICIL Head, Brassington, “never signed” the agreement.He referred the Queens Atlantic deal, where “a midpoint was chosen”, though reiterating that his client never signed the document. Burch-Smith stressed that the entire South Georgetown (including East, West, North and South Ruimveldt) and areas beyond Sherriff Street, Georgetown were all developed by Government. On these grounds, the lawyer stated, he could not understand how these actions with reference to the current case could be deemed misconduct.Justice George, however, reminded both attorneys to stick to evidence presented at the bar table.Singh, 45, of Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara, and Brassington, 50, of Florida, USA, are accused of selling various properties at prices the State contends were grossly undervalued. These charges have to do with the sale of several plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara to National Hardware Guyana Ltd for over $598 million; the sale of land to Scady Business Corporation at a cost of $150 million, and to Multi-cinemas Guyana Inc. at a cost of $185 million. Bruch-Smith on Monday that he has not seen the documents relating to Scady Business Corporation.These charges were filed by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) at the Magistrates’ Court following advice obtained from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP), but the two former Government officials denied the allegations. Their lawyers subsequently secured stays of execution to halt the lower court proceedings while they challenge the misconduct charges in the High Court.But then another set of charges were filed against Singh and Brassington, this time over the sale of the former Sanata Textiles Complex to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII). This, like other charges, was also challenged in the High Court, and back in July, acting Chief Justice Roxane George consolidated the four ‘misconduct in public office’ charges into one substantive challenge.It was alleged that between October 26 and December 20, 2010, the duo acted recklessly when they agreed to the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex to QAII. According to the charge, the 18.976-acre property was sold for $697.8 million, but it was valued at $1.04 billion. However, according to privatisation documents published by NICIL, the property was valued at $245 million by the Government’s Chief Valuation Officer, but QAII paid $809.5 million for the property – more than three times the Government valuation as Guyana Times had reported. The case continues on October 23.
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal have not given up their hunt for the Premier League title and ‘will fight to the end’ to get their hands on the coveted trophy.Since being tipped as favourites for the crown after a victory over Manchester City before Christmas, Wenger’s side have seen their challenge slip away with a run of three wins in 12 games in all competitions.And, following Saturday’s draw with Tottenham in a thrilling north London derby, the Gunners are now eight points adrift of leaders Leicester City with nine games remaining.But Wenger believes his side are still challenging both Spurs and the Foxes for the title and feels their two wins over the table toppers this season shows they have enough in their squad to close the gap.Arsenal face Hull City in an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday night, but – with the Gunners also on the brink of a Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona – Wenger has refused to pin all of his trophy aspirations on the competition.“You don’t think like that,” he said when asked whether the FA Cup is now Arsenal’s most realistic chance of silverware.“The Premier League is far from being over. Just to remind you, we have beaten Leicester twice so we have done our job against them.“People have to look at other teams more, not just us on that front. We will not give up the Premier League, we will fight until the end.”A sixth-round clash at home to Watford awaits the winner of Tuesday’s replay, with Arsenal’s Premier League game against West Brom to be rescheduled if they advance.Wenger is an advocate of the FA Cup and has seen his side win it in the last two years, but he is still likely to make changes against Steve Bruce’s Hull as his side face four games in the next ten days.“Look, we had no choice because the next round in the FA Cup is next Saturday,” he said of the replay being arranged for Tuesday.“So we had to fit it in somewhere. Ideally it’s not the best position for us but I couldn’t see any other solution.“I will have to [make changes] but I’m not so much concerned about replacing one player with another one. It’s more that I have to rotate a little bit and keep the right balance in the team.” 1
APTN National NewsA controversial mining proposal is bringing together two communities in Eastern Canada.Oka and Kanesatake are working together to ensure that a mining company never gets to put a shovel in the ground.APTN National News reporter Danielle Rochette explains why.
Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs APTN NewsIt’s an important day in the Northwest Territories for politics.For the first time in three decades, there will be a new Dene national chief elected on Wednesday.APTN reporter Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs is in West Point First Nation for the 48th annual Dene National Assembly.firstname.lastname@example.org