The Guyana government has scrapped a GYD$500,000 yearly lease for 3.41 acres of State land to Ed Ahmad- a friend of then President Bharrat Jagdeo, saying that the application had been fast-tracked in one week.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said the lease was granted to Generation Complex Inc; whose principal is Ahmad, for the construction of a 150-room hotel, restaurant, bars, club and casino at a cost of US$75 million. “In effect, what you had was a sort of a backdoor arrangement whereby this company was granted a lease within seven days and given the option of purchasing that land without going through the normal advertisement processes that you would normally do,” he said.
The lease had also given the company the option to purchase the land at any time for US$97,561 dollars during the life of the lease provided that the construction and investment are at least 60 percent completed at the date of interest expressed to purchase. “For clarity, the overall investment shall be no less than fifty million US dollars with the option being exercised once a minimum of thirty million US dollars has been expended on the project site,” states the lease.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had unsealed an indictment on mortgage fraud against Ahmad in July, 2011 and he pleaded guilty in October, 2012.
Harmon, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, said it would have been most inappropriate for such a facility to have been constructed just across the road from the headquarters of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
Harmon said the lease for the land, which is located at the corner of Irving Street and Thomas Road opposite GDF’s Camp Ayanganna, was scrapped after Ahmad had failed to pay for any additional years. I fact, the agreement provides for the termination of the lease if any payment of the rent is three months overdue, whether formally demanded or not or the construction of the hotel has not commenced within 12 months.
Ahmad, of Ozone Park, New York, has been convicted in a United States curt for real estate fraud and he is awaiting sentencing.
Harmon noted that the lease had been already granted to Ahmad even while there had been a legal battle over the land between the Guyana Public Service Union and government. He highlighted that the application had been made on May 22, 2008 and had been approved by the President on May 30, 2008.
The Minister of State said records show that the application was approved on a schedule on May 27, 2008 and a cadastral survey was executed, plan registered on May 29, 2008. It was also on May 29, 2008 that a notice was served on the Guyana Public Service Union that the area would have been surveyed.
He said the records also reveal that the plan was completed on May 29, 2009, registered the next day and the lease issued on May 30, 2015. “We could probably call this administrative deficiency but we in Guyana know that there is no way that that sequence of events can be completed in seven days and for a lease to be issued by the 30th of May,” he said.
The disclosure by the Guyana government came one day after Jagdeo, who is now Opposition Leader, insisted that he was a credible messenger in criticising the seven-month old coalition government about maladministration and alleged corruption. “When Mr. Jagdeo speaks about these corruption and bring the evidence, here it is, here it is; his friend, the company, Mr. Ahmad sees a piece of land says I like this piece of land and within one week he is able to get a full lease for that land and to pay a certain sum of money and given permission to buold a 150 room hotel with casino and all of that in an area that is required for recreational purposes,” said Harmon. “It reeks of extreme efficiency in the conduct of government business,” he added.