Finance Minister under the then A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, Winston Jordan’s misconduct case is now in the hands of a third Magistrate after Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus recused themselves from hearing the matter.
Senior Magistrate Leron Daly is now presiding over the matter which came up on Thursday.
Another hearing has been fixed for August 29 when Jordan’s legal team will lay over submissions on the mode of trial.
On April 29, the Chief Magistrate had recused herself from hearing the case. In providing insight on her recusal, she had explained that one of Jordan’s lawyers, Dawn Cush, previously served as a Magistrate in Guyana. As such, the Chief Magistrate recused herself of her own volition citing “apparent bias”.
In light of this, she transferred the case to Magistrate Isaacs-Marcus, who also recused herself from presiding over the case “in the interest of justice” on May 12. The matter was then transferred back to the Chief Magistrate, who also has the responsibility of assigning Magistrates to cases. She reassigned it to Magistrate Daly. The case is being prosecuted by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) Prosecutor, Attorney-at-Law Tuanna Hardy.
The former Minister was granted bail in the sum of $3 million when he initially appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on December 28, 2021.
It is alleged that Jordan, being and performing duties of Minister of Finance and being the concerned Minister for the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a company owned by the Government of Guyana, between February 26, 2020 and July 31, 2020, at Main Street, Georgetown, wilfully misconducted himself by acting recklessly when he signed NICIL (Transfer of Property) Order No 50 of 2020, which was published in the Official Gazette, transferring to and vesting to BK Marine Inc, absolutely, all buildings, erections, stellings, platforms, and further appurtenances, that is to say, Mudlots 1 & 2, F of Mudlot 3, A, B & D, situated at North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, being over 2.553 acres, for payment of $20,260,276 for the property valued over $5 billion.
It is further alleged that the property being sold at a price that was grossly undervalued to such a degree amounts to an abuse of the public’s trust without reasonable excuse or justification.
Jordan was arrested by SOCU, an arm of the Guyana Police Force that specialises in white-collar investigations on December 3, 2021, as part of investigations into alleged instances of corrupt governmental transactions between 2015 and 2020.
BK Marine, SOCU said, had only paid 10 per cent of the purchase price, that is, $20 million, and Jordan went ahead to issue a vesting order, passing the title to the purchaser without the payment of any further sum of monies.
According to SOCU, the vesting order stated that the property is being sold free from encumbrance and liabilities and no further sum of money is owed by the purchaser. It said that the transport was subsequently issued for the property and the value strangely stated on the transport was $400,000,000. Further, SOCU said that the agreement of sale stated that the title must only pass upon full payment of purchase price.
However, SOCU contended that investigators have evidence to establish that a facility that is a mere fraction of the size of the State property under investigation, located some seven miles upriver, was sold by a private company for US$17 million. It had pointed out that this was only one of several investigations that implicated former Minister Jordan.
While Jordan had previously denied any wrongdoing regarding this transaction, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, had announced that there were active investigations into a number of suspected shady dealings under the former APNU/AFC Government, and the former Finance Minister had been implicated in a number of “nefarious transactions”.
On behalf of the State, the Attorney General has also filed civil proceedings against Jordan at the Demerara High Court over the sale of the river frontage to BK Marine.
In this case, Nandlall is seeking to overturn the contentious sale of the State property. To this end, he is asking the court to declare the agreement of sale between BK Marine and NICIL illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy. This matter is still ongoing.