On March 7, 2017 Republic of Guyana Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) detectives detained the country’s ex-President of twelve years, Bharrat Jagdeo, along with the daughter of another past President, Donald Ramotar and Dr Roger Luncheon, a former Presidential Secretariat boss was also among detainees, implicated in a high level investigation of fraudulently obtained State monies.
In October 2014 Guyana’s government spent GD$63.1 million to establish the SOCU. The investigative Unit is tasked with probing suspicious financial transactions, redolent of money laundering and terrorism contributions.
SOCU operates under direction of the Commissioner of Police (COP) and works with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). A former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Lieutenant-Colonel leads the squad. Prior to his appointment SOCU’s commanding officer was key witness in the treason trial of a GDF Major and two co-conspirators. He also provided crucial testimony to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) that probed former politician Walter Rodney’s suspicious death.
Guyana’s State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) in tandem with SOCU sleuths discovered that as part of a Sparendaam Housing Project or “Pradoville Two” fraud scheme the former President received two parcels of land, equivalent to two acres, for GD$9.8 million. He paid GD$5 million per acre, or GD$114 per square foot, while market price was GD$317 per square foot. The ex-President built a mansion with a pool overlooking Guyana’s seawall and the Atlantic Ocean.
Other Pradoville Project awardees underpaid for land parcels by nearly GD$250 million. Unrecoverable finances for State-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), National Communications Network (NCN) and Guyana Power & Light Inc. (GPL). Additionally the government entities were not reimbursed for the multi-million dollar preparatory works. In 2015 authorities discovered ordinary citizens were not informed of housing land availability in the seawall and Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara areas.
As an element of the fraud scheme Guyana’s former President paid three times lower than market price for property in “Pradoville One,” locally known as Ogle Airport Road in Diamond and Grove Housing Schemes in East Bank Demerara. The estate was sold to a Trinidadian advertising executive for US$600,000 or GD$120 million. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), former Head of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), three ex-Ministers and former Cabinet Secretary also identified as Pradoville One beneficiaries. Each recipient paid under GD$1.5 million for land parcels.