Details are beginning to emerge about an alleged illegal sale of Crown land on St John’s Street in the heart of the city for an estimated EC$2.2 million to an Indian businessman.
According to a senior government minister, the lands have been vested with the state-owned Grenada National Lottery Authority (GNLA) which has been trying for years to use the property to construct a head office in close proximity to the Bus Terminus on Melville Street.
“…Someone used the Possessory Title act to sell it – they (Lotto) are now seeking to reclaim it since the act cannot be enforced against the Crown therefore it was illegal. This seemed to have occurred a few years ago,” said the government minister.
“Official information will be shared (with the media in due course) but this is a good move on the part of NLA,” he added.
The minister indicated that the Lottery Authority through its legal representative is “working hard” to try and take back possession of the property.
In recent months, heavy duty equipment was seen clearing the spot to pave the way for construction of a building but nothing has been happening of late.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the issue came to a head a few months ago when the Indian businessman who originally purchased the land attempted to sell it to another of his colleagues and ran into difficulties in getting title papers for the land.
A legal source pointed an accusing finger at the former New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell for ignoring a “red flag” that was discovered on the original sale of the land.
He said the person, identified as a female who “illegally sold the government land” went to the Inland Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance to make certain payments to complete the transaction.
He indicated that an alert employee referred the matter to the Legal Department of government but nothing was done to stop the transaction.
The seller of the state land is known to be the daughter of a woman who was once a strong supporter of Congress but defected to NNP when the Member of Parliament for the Town of St George Peter David who was expelled from the party joined forces with the Keith Mitchell-led party.
There are reports that in the face of attempts by Lotto to get the family to leave the property on St John’s Street, efforts were made to find accommodation for them at one of the houses at the Chinese built Housing Scheme at Mt Rush but they refused to accept it.
The family is known to have used some of the money to invest in a property in a well-to-do area.
According to the legal source, the matter is now seemingly heading in the direction of the high court to seek a resolution to the issue.
The controversial parcel of land on St John’s Street was reportedly leased by the government to a prominent citizen who then allegedly passed it onto another family who has been occupying the property for over 30 years.
State lands are exempted from changing title under the Possessory Title Act.
A senior lawyer told THE NEW TODAY that “a lot of land thiefing” is taking place in Grenada under the Possessory Title act.
He said the High Court is getting concerned about the issue and now making it much more difficult to give approval to requests by persons to obtain land through the act.