Former Guyana defense secretary arrested

A special police unit probing the alleged misappropriation of cash and assets from the state Tuesday arrested a former defense and cabinet secretary and the daughter of a former president in connection with the alleged misappropriation of prime seaside lands to build palatial homes for former top officials.

Roger Luncheon who had functioned as Guyana’s secretary of cabinet and head of the defense board from 1992-2015, was detained after lunch on Tuesday, March 7 from the office of opposition leader and former president Bharrat Jagdeo, taken to police headquarters and grilled about alleged undervaluing of a tract of land where Jagdeo and other ex officials own massive homes.

The state has persistently alleged that the ministers, including Jagdeo had paid only $25,000 for house lots, about three times lower than the value of the land at Sparandaam District on the east coast. Prosecutors also alleged that millions of state cash was used to develop the land and install infrastructure for the officials to build private homes. The state’s water utility is only now installing meters in the exclusive area, built about five years ago.

The Special Organized Crime Unit (Socu) said it had also arrested Lisaveta Ramotar, the daughter of former president Donald Ramotar and head of the Guyana Gold Board also in connection with alleged malfeasance relating to the sub division. It is unclear whether Ramotar will lose her job.

The arrests have come just days before the incumbent coalition administration is expected to use its wafer thin, one seat majority to pass special legislation establishing the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) which is also probing the disappearance of millions of cash, large tracts of land and other assets belonging to the country.

The bill gives the unit sweeping powers to liaise with foreign governments, make arrests and to trace assets and cash hidden in the country and overseas. The opposition has planned to file a constitutional motion to block the establishment of the agency.

Jagdeo called Luncheon’s arrest as an “act that will long be remembered as a grave injustice.”

The administration of President David Granger last month hired six private attorneys to work as special prosecutors to supervise impending criminal cases against top PPP officials.

The two agencies, SOCU and SARU are also probing a string of other cases including a $200M gold smuggling racket between Guyana, the US, Canada, the Middle East and Suriname.

Officials say that US Customs agents, startled by the amount of gold being declared at American ports alerted officials to the scheme leading to an official investigation. Charges are expected to be laid soon.

More from Around NYC