While we are all saddened by the loss of life during the conduct of “lawful duty”, per Minister of Home Affairs Khemraj Ramjattan, by Special Organized Crime Unit, SOCU, we cannot let Clement Rohee’s reference to the tragedy as “reckless misuse of the security and intelligence community in this country for political purposes,” detract from the procedure that law enforcement has commenced against Winston Brassington.
We must mourn, regroup and then get back to the business of apprehending and prosecuting all those who are guilty of malfeasance.
Long before Minister of Presidency Joseph Harmon declared that the government “will never have confidence in Winston Brassington” many Guyanese had already taken that stance.
There was a pervading feeling of unease since 1994 when Winston Brassington was appointed Head of Privatization because the constant talking point was that privatization would follow the mandate established by the Forbes Burnham government – a reference that sounded like more threat than a promise.
In 2002 Privatization was merged with National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) and Brassington was made head of that combined unit.
At this point, it may be good to remember that NICIL was established in 1990 as a holding company to keep and mange government assets. The formation of the company was to reallocate what had become substantial government holdings to the private sector. These assets included buildings, land, pharmaceutical companies, equipment and other real property.
In short, this company had control of the changing of hands of assets for money on behalf of the citizens of Guyana. It operated as a government dictated entity with the government being its single, only, sole shareholder. That meant NICIL could not fail and would be as successful as the dividends its shareholder- the government- wanted to be paid.
As the holder of a significant chunk of the public’s investment, this gave this agency a whole lot of autonomy and while all this was happening Winston Brassington was the Chairman of the Board, enjoying the latitude of creatively accounting for public funds, with very little supervision.
In 2008, when Brassington told a government sponsored seminar at the Pegasus that proceeds from asset liquidation collected between 1994 and 2008 amounted to only 24 billion, there was a collective gasp of incredulity. In fourteen years and with the amount of liquidation that had transpired within that period, if that figure were to be believed, it would have meant that the government, which was acting on behalf of the people, was either unqualified or understating the receipts.
The latter sentiment prevailed.
This was cemented when the monies received from corporations like Linden Mining Enterprise and Guyana Airways Corporation were said to be put back in to NICIL as a form of investment. Curiously, the majority of property advertised for liquidation received little or no response and big ticket items like Sanata Textile Mills and John Fernandes property all had their sale proceeds vested in NICIL. Of course the sales figures were never released to the public, neither was evidence of any advertisements or responses.
While all this was happening, Brassington did an interview with Olive Gopaul on ‘Inside the Government’, ostensibly to address the operational concerns that were being raised by the opposition and the public. The charade was a brazen display of callous disregard for accountability for public’s money. Brassington couldn’t stress enough that the Articles and by laws dictated that the funds were to be held under his charge; with no requirement for a deposit to the Consolidated fund.
It sounds unbelievable but this was the time of PPP administration; when policy was crafted and constructed to give government unrestrained control over public funds. This government had already refused to make NICIL’s control of public funds part of parliamentary debate and oversight so that the disbursement of funds allegedly for specialty hospitals and Amalia Falls projects needed only to be spoken and not proven.
It follows, therefore, if NICIL was not mandated to confirm to structured accountability, approved and overseen by parliament, then neither was Winston Brassington, the man who had free rein from 1994 to 2015.
Shortly after the Granger Administration took office, it was discovered that Winston Brassington collected one billion dollars from Guyana National Cooperative Bank, ostensibly for the construction of the Marriott Hotel but it was hidden in a secret account that was traced through NICIL’s books.
A few months before that, it was discovered that Winston Brassington had given the sole taxi contract for the same Marriott to Patrick’s Taxi service. Turns out Patrick is Winston’s brother. In 2012, acting on behalf of the people of Guyana in liquidating the Guyana National Cooperative Bank through a convoluted set of transactions that, also, liquidated Hand in Hand Insurance Company, a Jonathan Brassington ended up as the primary share holder with 2.25 million shares. Jonathan is Winston’s brother. This same name shows up as co owner, with a Winston Brassington, in a company named Atlantic Merchants International, founded 1994 or 2001, in Dalton Pennsylvania, where brother, Jonathan, resides.
Since NICIL was above parliamentary oversight, there is no telling what role this Company, Atlantic Merchants International, could have played as vendor to any of the liquidations that Winston would have been performing on the people’s behalf and without their approval.
Winston Brassington, the appointed public investor, has undoubtedly breached his fiduciary duty and abused the scope he was given to act on the people’s behalf. He was subsequently sent on leave, pending investigation of practices that failed to meet the threshold of generally accepted accounting principles in the institutions he oversaw. He then slipped out of Guyana, unbeknownst to authorities, even as an active investigation had begun.
This would make Winston Brassington a fugitive from the law.
This would give the Guyana Special Organized Crime Unit the right to surveille his home.
This is what police agencies, around the world, typically, do when seeking to apprehend those who violate public trust.
The whole of Guyana is not under surveillance primarily because most Guyanese have not had the opportunity to raid public coffers or misdirect and or misappropriate public funds.
This is what we should be hearing from the Government and the various Public Relations units often enough to debunk the fear mongering that seeks to use this tragedy as an opportunity to paint Guyana as a police state and to educate the public that as long as Brassington remains a fleeing person of interest, surveilling his home is not off limits.