Former housing and works minister, Irfaan Ali, will re-appear in court on January 7 next year, after he was slapped with several charges related to conspiracy to defraud the Guyana government of more than GUY$170 million (One Guyana dollar=US$0.04 cents) in the sale of several parcels of land.
When he appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann Mc Lennan, Ali, a member of the last People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration, 19 charges of conspiring with unknown persons to sell lands at Goedveragting-Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara to recklessly selling the house lots for GUY$39.8 million.
As he emerged from the court, Ali, 38, told reporters he was innocent and that the charges are without merit. He said he remains confident of being vindicated of no wrongdoing and that the charges are part of a move to silence members of the opposition.
The prosecution alleges that the lands were actually valued a total of GUY$$212.4 million at the time they were being sold during the years 2010 and 2011.
He was released on self-bail (no cash) even after the Prosecutor, Patrice Henry, said he would not oppose a significant cash bail.
But attorney, Devendra Kissoon, who is leading led a five member defence team, successfully opposed the cash bail application on the grounds that Ali is a legislator, serves as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and is co-chair of the bipartisan Economic Services Committee. He is also the Shadow Finance Minister.
Kisson told the court that his client “intends to dutifully fulfill his duties” and “given the nature of his background…“there is no reason for him not to be released on his own recognizance”.
Former attorney general, Anil Nandlall, said he has never seen a charge conspiracy to defraud because lands were sold lower than market value.
Former prime minister Sam Hinds was among PPP supporters lending support to Ali, who was arrested early on Wednesday at his home by members of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
SOCU has been questioning a number of former government officials, including former president Bharrat Jagdeo, in relation to the sale of the state lands under the last administration.