18th Jan 2019
High Court Judge Franklin Holder has granted a stay of criminal proceedings against former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali.
Ali had moved to the High Court to quash several fraud charges he is facing for the controversial Pradoville Two scheme. As Housing Minister, Ali allegedly played a key role in selling plots of lands at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, to his colleague ministers and other top officials, shortly before Bharrat Jagdeo ended his second term.
Jagdeo himself benefitted from lands, on which he built a large mansion.
Last November, Ali was arrested and slapped with 19 charges by the police’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).Ali was supposed to appear in the Magistrate’s Court again as those matters continue.
The former Minister had however moved to the High Court for an order quashing the decision of the DPP to charge him with the offence of ‘conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law’, on the basis that it was irrational, biased, and influenced by improper considerations and motives. He also asked the Court for an order quashing the information of oath, of Munilall Persaud, Corporal of Police of the Special Organised Crime Unit, on the 19 charges.
In an attempt to bar the application, State Counsel Leslyn Noble had argued that Ali‘s request in the High Court was premature given that matter was not completed in the Magistrate’s Court.
However yesterday, Justice Holder granted “an interim order restraining the Chief Magistrate or any other Magistrate within the Georgetown Magisterial District from hearing or attempting to hear or determine or taking any further steps in respect of the matter, until the case is completed in the High Court.
Ali’s legal team which comprised Attorneys Neil Boston, S.C., Anil Nandlall, and Devindra Kissoon, had pointed out the basis for which their client is facing allegations of offence of Conspiracy to Defraud Contrary to Common Law is “for selling lands in Pradoville without first obtaining a valuation below their true market value”.
In their submissions, Ali’s lawyers argued that in order for a charge of conspiracy to defraud to be successful, there must be underlying unlawful conduct, and that there was nothing unlawful about selling a property without first obtaining a valuation.
Kissoon in his submissions argued that Ali’s alleged “reckless” conduct could in no way amount to a criminal offence, and that “[T]he conspiracy must incorporate some unlawfulness, either in its object or in its means. An agreement to achieve a lawful object by lawful means cannot amount to a conspiracy to defraud; however dishonourable or unscrupulous the object or means might be.”
Added to that, in response to Ali’s application, DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack made an application to be dismissed from the case stating that, “there was no decision by the DPP to charge the Applicant” and that the “DPP did not advise of any charges.”
The DPP stated that “a file in respect of the disputed area was minuted to the DPP’s Office from the Office of the Crime Chief seeking legal advice after legal advice was obtained by the police from the Police Legal Advisor and it was returned without any advice”, since she (DPP) was “a co-owner to a lot in the disputed area.”
Anil Nandlall argued that the DPP’s refusal to charge was an implicit admission that there was no basis to charge, and Senior Counsel Neil Boston indicated the team’s intention to amend the application to challenge the DDP’s refusal to withdraw the charge, despite her admission that she did not advise to charge – the DPP’s admission of her refusal to charge demonstrating the frivolity of the charges.
Justice Holder, agreed there was serious “issue to be tried” and that the issuance of a stay in the interest of the security of justice, and given the fact that the Prosecution took almost 10 years to bring the charges, and that the Court will hear the matter expeditiously, there could be no prejudice to the prosecution.
As such, the Fixed Date Application will be heard on February 5, 2019.