Not Richard Bainie
HEN Minister of Public Health and chair of the National People’s Congress (PNC / R) Reform, Volda Lawrence, made an appearance at the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) headquarters on Tuesday morning. Speaking to members of the media outside Camp Road, a Georgetown location, Lawrence said her visit to SOCU was about clarifying a transaction with his name attached.
“It’s not really anything, it was just an explanation of a transaction that had my name on it and that was it; I decided I would come in, I wouldn’t talk to people on the phone because I don’t know who I’m talking to, ”Lawrence said.
A reliable source revealed that Lawrence was removed before SOCU to assist with the investigations surrounding the award of State lands at Peter’s Hall, Demerara East Bank (EBD). Attorney-at-law, James Bond, and former CEO (CEO) of National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Colvin Heath-London, are also under investigation in the same matter.
Bond is accused of benefiting from land bargains arising from the sale of State lands while allegedly taking care of the interest of NICIL, which presided over the lease of the lands. Two businessmen were arrested in the scandal – Director of Life 1 Pharms Inc., Avalon Jagnandan, and AZ Director of AZ Pharmaceuticals Medical Supplies and Equipment Inc., Eddie Doolal – and investigators were told that Bond facilitated the deals and transferred 30 acres of prime land State to Chinese, Jianfen Yu.
The businessmen allegedly revealed to the police that it was Bond who encouraged them to start pharmaceutical companies and apply to NICIL to acquire lands; it was also that Bond, not them, received a large refund from both deals, totaling more than $ 100M.
Bond reportedly received a US $ 1M payment from Trinidad’s logistics company, Lennox Petroleum, for the sale of 10 acres of leased land to ARKEN Group Inc. In that deal, ARKEN and its principal from NICIL leased 20.3 acres of land at Peter’s Hall May 9, 2018, for a 20-year period at US $ 16,224 a year. ARKEN later sold the 10 acres to the local logistics company, GLASS Holdings Inc. on Oct. 10, 2019, for $ 200M.
The source revealed that the said transaction that Lawrence was questioned related to the James Bond account and involves the transfer of a large sum of money. The source also revealed that doubts were raised about the relationship between Lawrence and Bond; and Lawrence’s ability as Minister of Health and the pharmaceutical companies.
Asked by reporters about whether the gift of land scandal is linked to her appearance at SOCU, Lawrence said “I’m not a thief, I don’t cheat in nothing, under-do, over-do.”