After being established for two years, the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) is yet to complete a single case file. This became apparent when Attorney General, Basil Williams delivered his 2019 budget debate presentation yesterday in the National Assembly.
Williams said that the Agency has been working on 25 cases referred to it by the Police Legal Advisor. The Minister of Legal Affairs said that the Agency has five cases which are 90% complete and are only held up because requests for information have not yet been fulfilled. He said, too, that several agencies are still going through mountains of old documents to find the relevant pieces of information which are needed to wrap up cases.
In addition to this, the Minister said that there are another 12 cases with a possible recovery value of over $2 billion. These, however, are 70% complete. They were stuck at this very stage since November 2017.
The Legal Affairs Minister also told the House that SARA, in working with the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), was able to have three pieces of Government property repossessed from delinquent leasees. Williams said that two of these properties are again on the market and interested parties are prepared to pay 300% to 400% more than the previous tenants. The third piece of property he said was sold to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) for $60M.
In addition to this, the Minister said that SARA working alongside the various agencies which have the responsibility for lands was able to provide information, which led to several actions. These include the Guyana Forestry Commission repossessing approximately 2,000,000 acres of Forestry lands, the Lands and Survey Department repossessing approximately 80 house lots, and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) reclaiming 100 acres of land plus several smaller pieces.
The Parliamentarian said, “SARA, working with ministries and regions, was able to ensure improved inventories of equipment and the repossession and reallocation of more than 30 buildings across the country.”
He said, too, that SARA is working with the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to recover revenue lost through gold shipments leaving Guyana. In this regard, Minister noted that there have been several cases where amounts declared at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport were vastly different to what was declared at JFK in New York.
Williams also noted that SARA is presently seeking cooperation with Brazil to identify, and if possible, recover gold held in Brazil due to illegal activities by Guyanese smugglers.