By Kiana Wilburg
Head of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), Dr. Clive Thomas, said that it would be a serious
indictment on his office if the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, were to walk scot free for all his financial transgressions against the nation.
He said, “I guarantee you, he will be hauled before the court. He wouldn’t get away no matter how far he runs. We will find him and he will face the music. Even if he runs he wouldn’t get away because international bodies against corruption which we are signed onto are watching him.
Asked if he is aware and worried that Brassington may be looking to flee the jurisdiction, Dr. Thomas said, “I am not worried. Justice will be served. Even if Brassington decides to run, he won’t get far. We are a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
“And they are watching him along with other international bodies against corruption. They would more than cooperate with us in ensuring that Brassington is brought back to Guyana from where ever he decides to run to so he can face the full extent of the law.”
“Justice will happen under my watch. It has to happen, if not, then what is the point of SARU if we allow one of the biggest perpetrators of white collar crimes to get away?”
Dr. Thomas said that he is aware that the public is impatient and wants to see justice fast. He promised that this will happen. The SARU Head noted that investigations have already been launched into the properties along the East Bank Demerara area and on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway that were held by NICIL.
He said that the probe was launched to ascertain the status of those properties and their assets since it was found that Brassington had a special interest in them.
Thomas said that the NICIL Executive Officer somehow “got a whiff” that the investigations started and as such, requested to have a meeting with SARU’s Chief investigator, Aubrey Retemyer. Thomas said that the meeting was granted but another officer was instructed to be at the meeting.
Dr. Thomas said that such meetings would not be occurring anytime soon because his office intends to keep a hands-off approach to Brassington. “I took this decision because I don’t think he can be trusted.”
The anti-corruption advocate also said that he shares the concerns recently made by financial analyst, Ramon Gaskin, to the effect that Government needs to quicken its efforts towards securing prosecution against Brassington and others.
Gaskin had said, “All the police need, sometimes, is probable cause that you have committed a crime and they can arrest and charge you. But in the case of Winston Brassington, NICIL’s CEO, there is more than probable cause for him to be arrested and charged. There is irrefutable evidence that he has been involved in unconscionable acts of corruption against the state. Yet, we cannot see a single charge being laid against this man.”
He had said that he is concerned that Government may be quibbling or pussyfooting when it comes to ensuring that Brassington “does the time for the crimes he committed.”
Gaskin said that when one takes into consideration the findings of the forensic audit report completed on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, there is more than sufficient ground for Brassington to be hauled before the court and reprimanded.
He said that the coalition government needs to send a strong message that those who stole from the state will not slip under the radar.
“This was their election promise and that is what President David Granger said on several occasions,” added Gaskin.
“In seven months, we have been seeing a number of revelations on the crimes committed by Brassington and his cohorts, one of which includes former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh. What is causing the hold up with the charges? Government needs to act. Bring the evidence before the court and remand them,” expressed Gaskin.
He then made reference to some of the findings in the NICIL forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.
“The forensic report shows that Brassington bypassed internationally recognized and credible companies only to engage criminal entities for the construction of the Marriott Hotel. He failed to justify how millions of dollars were spent in the Linden Mining Enterprise and to properly account for their assets.
“He hid $1B in a secret account to aid in the construction of the Marriott Hotel, then he paved the way for NICIL to illegally fund the preparation of the Pradoville Two scheme, misappropriated billions of dollars, and kept $26B from the Consolidated Fund.”
“And that’s just the beginning. Doesn’t that amount to more than probable cause? This is what came out of a forensic audit report which found damning evidence regarding these financial crimes. What more are we waiting to see before he is charged?”
Dr. Clive Thomas said that he could understand Gaskin’s sentiments which he said were also expressed by other concerned citizens.
He said, “You know we have been seeing a lot of revelations in the media and I think that (Brassington) should be charged on each violation of Guyana’s financial laws separately or as they come in as opposed to government waiting to pursue all the cases at once.”
Additionally, in the forensic audit report on NICL, Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran recommended that moves be made to institute criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those within NICIL responsible for the interception of State revenues totaling $26.858 billion in violation of Articles 216 of the Constitution and the related sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).
He said that disciplinary action is provided for under the following sections of the FMA Act: (a) Section 48 — Misuse of public moneys; (b) Section 49 — Liability for loss of public moneys; and (c) Section 85 — Liability of an official.
Goolsarran also called for the institution of criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those responsible for violating Article 217 of the Constitution by causing expenditure to be incurred without parliamentary approval.
He said that charges are in order for all those responsible for ignoring National Assembly Resolution No. 32 of December 17, 2012, requiring NICIL to pay over to the Consolidated Fund “all revenues and proceeds from the sale of all State properties, except for those necessary administrative costs for maintaining and running its operations annually.”
The Chartered Accountant called for NICIL to be liquidated and for the appointment of a Receiver to oversee the liquidation process. He said, too, that Government should re-activate the Privatisation Unit as a department of the Ministry of Finance to manage the Government’s residual investments after liquidation proceedings have concluded. In this regard, he noted that the existing staff of NICIL could be transferred to the Ministry of Finance.
Goolsarran also recommended that his report be forwarded to the State Assets Recovery Unit, with a view to recovering any State assets/properties that might have been improperly and illegally transferred to third parties.
He believes that there should be a further independent audit to examine in detail transactions over the last six years, given that the scope of his report covered the period 2001 to May 2015.
“In addition, considering the hostile, arrogant and demeaning response to my preliminary draft report as well as certain restrictions placed on this audit, it would be desirable for the Executive Director and the Deputy Executive Director to proceed on leave to facilitate the transaction audit,” Goolsarran added.
He said that Government may wish to consider whether it wishes to retain the services of the Executive Director and the Deputy Executive Director in light of the findings and conclusions contained in the report.
Come Tuesday, the forensic audit report is expected to be discussed among Cabinet members.