Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, Senior Counsel, advises Guyanese (in the diaspora and at home) to regularly check the country’s Gazette (published by the government) to see if their property is advertised for sale or transfer of ownership unknown to them. Forgeries of documents to properties, primarily owned by Guyanese in the diaspora, though not exclusively, have been a routine occurrence in Guyana. Accomplices at government offices and elsewhere help to forge documents to take over peoples’ property. These fake power of attorney is used it to carry out transactions against rightful owners and or to defraud people of their property and wealth.
The AG tendered this friendly legal advice on a TV show “Government in Action” (that addresses current issues) hosted by the DPI head Mr. Ed Layne on the evening of March 16. The AG intends to introduce legislation in parliament with stiffer penalties against forgeries.
The interview with the AG that prompted him to advice the public to regularly examine the Gazette for advertisements on transfer of ownership of property follows a recent CCJ ruling. A criminal forged documents granting him power of attorney to sell someone’s property in Queenstown, Georgetown. The planned sale was advertised in the Gazette undetected or unknown to the owner who also was not aware of the forged power of attorney. The individual who forged the power of attorney and sold the property was caught, arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned. The person who purchased the property was not aware of the forged power of attorney and any fraud pertaining to the property. He engaged in what the court found was due diligence checking published documents and gazettes. He entered into a business transaction that he was convinced was legitimate. He did everything humanely possible on the legitimacy of the sale. He was not a suspect for fraud. He entered into what he thought was a sound, legitimate business practice. He did not break any laws; the CCJ ruled in his favor. The original owner lost the property not of any fault of his but simply because he did not routinely check the Gazette for illegal sale of his property. Had he been checking the official Gazette, he would have been able to detect that his property was illegally put up for sale without his authorization.
The CCJ recommended in its ruling that the government takes measures to deter forgeries of documents against properties. Property frauds of this nature are a nation-wide phenomenon.
The Attorney General agrees with the CCJ and is preparing a bill to strengthen legislation to take to cabinet to protect property owners from fraud. This writers recommends that rigorous imprisonment and hefty fine must be a part of the legislation.
What should one do to ensure the safety of one’s property?
Check the gazette regularly and immediately file a criminal complaint if your property is advertised for sale or if you notice something amiss about power of attorney. All property transactions are gazette. The Gazette is published online and is available publicly for free. It can also be printed. A victim must file a police complaint for forgery and fabrication of documents as soon as he or she finds out about the situation. In addition to the Gazette publication, there is usually also an advertisement in a local paper of planned sale of a property. Advertisements for sale of property should also be read.