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…months after registrar was found guilty of stealing $4.5M
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall has warned staff of the Dees and Commercial registries against bribery even as he encourages them to serve the people of Guyana faithfully.
Only March this year the former Deeds Registrar, Azeena Baksh who was charged in 2017 for procuring over $4M by false pretense, was found guilty of the offence and was ordered to reimburse the state $4,534,480. The court had ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Baksh, and as such she was found guilty of the offence. The case against her was that while being a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) between May 1, 2014 and January 31, 2017, with intent to defraud, she caused or procured valuable securities to the sum of $4,534,480 to be delivered to her bank of Nova Scotia account #281469; or to her own use and benefit by falsely pretending she was a contracted employee of the Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority.
It was staffers at the s Registry who called upon the Ministry of Legal Affairs to investigate their complaints of alleged financial improprieties committed by Baksh.
According to the Ministry, the Human Resource and Accounting Departments complained that as Head of the Budget Agency and sole person in authority to approve and sign off the payroll of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority and one of the main signatories on the Authority’s Bank Account, the Registrar unlawfully paid herself gratuity. It was alleged that she did this knowing that she was a pensionable employee, having been appointed by the JSC. Registrar Baksh further unlawfully paid herself a higher salary than was approved by the JSC. The Ministry of Legal Affairs stated that the Deeds Registry officers disclosed that these payments started since 2014 and continued up to early 2017.
Meanwhile, Nandlall last Friday visited the Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority offices at the ground floor of the High Court building, and at Lot 1 High and Commerce Streets, Newtown. During his visit, the Deputy Registrar of Deeds (ag), Ms. Zanna Frank, and Registrar of Companies (ag), Ms. Nicole Prince, took the Attorney General on a tour of the two locations.
They also took the opportunity to raise, with him, the challenges that the agency currently faces, including, physical space for staff, storage capacity, as well as, other operational challenges. The Attorney General reminded that the Authority is governed by a Board, and that the issues will be raised at the next Board Meeting.
However, the Attorney General lent his support to work with the Board to ensure that the problems are addressed, including, extending the building at High and Commerce Streets, a release from Nandlall’s office said. Nandlall further explained that in his previous stint as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, it was then that the new location at Avenue of the Republic was acquired from New Building Society Limited, and was retrofitted to house the Commercial Registry and the Land Registry.
The Attorney General reiterated that the intention then was to acquire possession of the First Federation building located on Croal Street to renovate it and use it to give additional accommodation to the Authority, especially much-needed vault space to store documents.
In his address to the staff, the Attorney General outlined his expectation that the two Registries must be continuously modernised to render its operations more efficient and expedient. He reminded the staff that the agency is instrumental in the developmental agenda of the country, in particular in the areas of commerce, trade, industry and housing. He reminded the staff that they must serve the people of Guyana, as well as foreign investors, faithfully and professionally. He warned against bribery and corruption at the agency, highlighting that unfortunately, rumours of that existing at the agency are publicly quite prevalent. He admonished that any such incident discovered will be properly investigated, and persons implicated will be dealt with in accordance with the law.