Rambharat State Witness in 50 Cases, Ministry of Agriculture Land Fraud Investigation

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Former Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat in an interview at the Port of Spain Botanical Garden. -JEFF K MAYERS

Former Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat is now the star witness in at least 50 criminal investigations related to land fraud after having to personally investigate and gather evidence to root out corruption involving government employees.

Rambharat, a lawyer, who resigned as a senator on March 16, citing his inability to balance work and family life, even had to go so far as to identify a person accused of fraud during an identification parade recently .

Last Sunday he revealed explosive claims of land fraud on an i95FM talk show claiming he was being pressured to approve a bogus deed for a doctor who was seeking a $6 million mortgage from a commercial bank and had generated more than 50 files which were now under investigation by the police.

During an interview on March 17, a day after his resignation, Rambharat said he was finalizing his statement with investigators assigned to the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau to substantiate allegations of fraud and misconduct at the power against a senior official who worked in the ministry.

The officer, who has since retired, is accused of colluding with others to grant five relatives seven plots of land worth an estimated $5 million.

“On this particular matter, we are at the stage of finalizing my official statement to the TTPS based on the documentary evidence previously submitted,” he said.

Rambharat has agreed to help new agriculture minister Kazim Hosein and Nigel de Freitas, agriculture ministry minister in charge of land, to be briefed on the ministry’s work. He should inform them on Tuesday during the solemn handover in Chaguanas.

Contacted for comment, Hosein said on Friday he had not yet been briefed by Rambharat and was unable to comment.

Rambharat said that although police recently charged two people with criminal offenses related to the sale and distribution of false documents allowing people to occupy state land, there was much more under investigation.

“There are many files that need to be dealt with and they (ACIB) have shown significant interest in going through these files and leading the investigation and prosecution.”

In any case, he said, it was he who filed the complaint to open the investigation.

“It’s something disturbing. No public officer has made a complaint to the police in my time,” he said. Rambharat served seven years as a minister.

“I have been the only one in many cases to detect, investigate, compile, present the police services and eventually, when they have finished their work, sign a declaration. This means that I have time in court to to come.”

He said he personally had to take action “because there’s really a lack of interest in dealing with this part, in terms of fighting fraud. It’s become pervasive.”

Rambharat said that in one of the cases, a person with access to the vault holding leases for state lands fabricated fake documents and sold them on the premises of the government building.

He wondered how “a business like this goes on and the leaders don’t know, they have to know something is wrong.”

But after the suspect was arrested, he said, people in the office told him they were aware of the long-running criminal enterprise.

“And that’s the most disturbing thing, that it’s been going on for so long, and people are talking about corruption. I blame the public because they’re happy to enjoy it, it’s only when something goes wrong that “He can file a complaint. If it worked, I wouldn’t hear from them,” he said.

On Thursday, Acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob said police investigators were pursuing complaints filed by Rambharat and noted that two people had already been charged.

A police statement earlier this month said Jimboy Bruno, 38, an auditor, of Bon Air Gardens, Arouca, and Devon Richardson, 38, a contractor, of Panco Lane, San Fernando, were charged with criminal offenses related to land fraud.

Bruno, who works in the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands, is accused of forging a letter dated February 3, 2020, allowing a man to occupy state land in southern Oropouche in return for a payment of $700.

Richardson is accused of using a forged document in an attempt to obtain permission to use land at Hindustan Junction, New Grant, Princes Town.

The two were arrested and charged by the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau after a report was made on November 23, 2021.

Bruno was charged on March 13 and Richardson on March 10.

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