Deeds, Azeena Baksh and former PPP, MP, Charles Ramson Jr. over the waiver of just over $6M in defaulting fees of a company the attorney had represented back in February 27, 2015.Baksh is already being investigated for allegedly paying herself gratuity contrary to her terms of employment and also increasing her salary. This probe is expected to be wrapped up before the end of this week, the Guyana Chronicle was told. Regarding the second investigation, Baksh is being accused of waiving over $6M in defaulting fees on behalf of Film Makers International Limited. Authorities said neither Baksh nor the registry has the powers to waive fees and her action allegedly amounts to a criminal offence.
According to documents seen by this newspaper on February 27, 2015, Ramson jr, who is currently on a Chevening Scholarship in the United Kingdom, wrote Baksh informing her that he was instructed by Sheila Budhan, Secretary and director of Film Makers International, a company duly incorporated under the Laws of Guyana with its registered office situated at Lot 5, Sussex Street, Georgetown. “My client instructs me to request a discretion to be exercised in computating the fees in respect of default of continuance of the said company for the period 1995-2014 in accordance with the Companies Act 1991 Section 342 C,” Ramson wrote in his letter.
A perusal of the section cited by the lawyer does not make provision for any waiver of fees. In fact the Section 342 C of the Companies Act of 1991 states, “Without affecting the operation of the interpretation and General Clause Act when there is no equivalent provision in this Act to the provision or procedure in or under the former Act referred to in the corporate instrument of a body corporate, the provision or proceeding of the former Act shall be applied and shall stand unrepealed to the extent necessary to give effect to that reference in the corporate instrument.”
Top legal sources have told this newspaper that it is inconceivable that a lawyer of Ramson’s ilk would quote such a provision in requesting waiver of defaulting fees. “It is inconceivable that he would do that, he is a lawyer and the Registrar also has a law degree. The whole transaction seems suspicious,” the legal official stated.
However, despite the fact that no provision is made under the section for a waiver, a senior staff at the registry told the Guyana Chronicle that she was aware of Baksh effecting the transaction, which saw the company only paying $1.5M out of the closely $8M that was outstanding. The staff, who requested anonymity, explained that following the passage of the Companies Act 1991, any company that existed before it had come into force had two years to register under it to continue. The staff said failing to do so every day they carried on business without being registered under the new act to continue each director had to pay a defaulting fee of $200 per day.
According to the staff, in 1997 the Companies Act was amended and the fee increased to $600 per day for each director. According to the registry staff in this particular case, Film Makers International, which had two directors had failed to pay the defaulting fee since 1995-2015 and when the calculation was done they were in arrears of close to $8M. It was at this stage, the staff said Ramson Jr, who and the lawyer are friends, held discussions. The staff said subsequently Ramson Jr wrote the letter requesting the waiver. “I don’t know what discussion they had but following her discussion with him a letter came and her (Baksh) instructions were to let him pay only $1.5M.”
The staff said questions were raised about Baksh’s decision, pointing out that the authority to waive fees is not vested in her nor the registry, but rather with the Minister of Finance. “ But she is the head of department there was nobody I could have gone to because you know at that time the PPP was in power and everybody was everybody’s friend,” staff reasoned. The staff however said she did alert the deputy registrar of the illegal transaction, who advised her to make copies of all the documents, which she has been able to preserve up to today.
Asked whether Ms Baksh had sought to conceal her actions, the staff answered in the affirmative, pointing out that the original file on the matter has since disappeared:”but thankfully I had made copies of everything. “Lamenting the fact that the file has gone missing the staff said “I find it very disgusting that a custodian of the public records would do this.” The staff said there have been several other instances of irregularities under Baksh’s watch, which will soon come to light.
Refused to go on leave
Baksh, who is the daughter of former junior Agriculture Minister, Ali Baksh of Essequibo has resisted being sent on administrative leave pending the investigation. At a recent management meeting hosted by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, Baksh was asked to proceed on administrative leave to facilitate an investigation into the matter. He also instructed that Zanna Frank, Deputy Registrar, perform the functions of Registrar of Deeds. However, in a missive dated April 13, 2017 and addressed to Williams, Baksh made it clear that she was employed by the JSC and as a result will not proceed on administrative leave.
“I respectfully reject your allegations and I am therefore prepared to defend myself in the appropriate manner. I am guided by my legal counsel to the effect that I am employed directly by the Judicial Services Commission and as such the Ministry of Legal Affairs has no jurisdiction to direct me to proceed on leave of any kind. I am further advised that it is only the judicial Service Commission that is empowered to investigate me in any circumstances,” she said, as she informed the Attorney General that she has referred the matter to the JSC.
In response, to Baksh’s complaint, the JSC wrote to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Delma Nedd, informing her of the Commission’s role relative to its employees. In a letter dated April 24, 2017, Secretary for the JSC informed Nedd that the body has received correspondence from Baksh informing inter alia that she was directed to proceed on administrative leave pending the investigation into the payment of gratuity. “In keeping with Article 199 (1) and 199 (3) of the Constitution, the power to make an appointment, to remove and exercise disciplinary control over the Registrar of Deed, vests in the Judicial Service Commission. In this regard, the commission hereby requests that a report on this matter be produced and sent to it for deliberation.”