Controversy Over Ebony Project: Was There a Conflict of Interest?

9 years, 10 months ago - January 23, 2013
Khushal Lobine is that the lawyer, longtime friend and business partner Rakesh Gooljaury and is the first President of the State Insurance Company of Mauritius Ltd (SICOM), an institution that purchased the building in Construction second to Rs 600 million, is there a conflict of interest? Three lawyers analyze this situation.

These lawyers respond in the affirmative if Khushal Lobine has not declared his interest and was not removed when the question of the purchase of the building under construction is referred to the Board of SICOM. Otherwise, there is no blame to him. (See explanation in Khushal Lobine inset).

According to the lawyer, Anil Gayan, there is a conflict of interest "when the file is reviewed by the Board, the person concerned has not declared his interest." And this must be done each time the file is addressed and not only when the decision to purchase is made.

In early 2011, SICOM snaps procedures for the sale prior to completion (VEFA) of the proposed buildings under construction in Cybercity Ebene, Rakesh Gooljaury that he has proposed. Further development of size in this case: in January 2011, Arushi Development, Rakesh Gooljaury company, transferred its lease of two acres to SICOM. And it is only in December 2011 that Khushal Lobine became president of the SICOM. So, much later. However, on 6 August 2012, the Board of Directors endorses the redemption SICOM Rs 591 million, and a month later, VEFA is signed. At this time, Khushal Lobine is president of this company in the state.

Another lawyer interviewed by The Daily Challenge, but who requested anonymity, agrees, arguing that, in general, "if someone is a consultant on a project or if it is close to a person whose record is before the Board, it must withdraw. The Prevention of Corruption Act (PoCA) is clear on this subject. Now, if the ICAC will look at this case, this is something else. "

This law allows the Anti-Corruption Commission to open an investigation on its own, when it suspects any violation of its laws.

Clause 13 of the PoCA indicates that when "official is a member, officer or employee of a public entity, which intends to do business with a company in which the official or a relative or associate of the latter has a direct or indirect interest and whether the official and / or his relative or associate holds more than 10% of the shares of this company, the official should declare in writing their interest. " It will also "abstain from voting or taking part to the efforts of the public entity in relation to such a decision."

Reza Uteem, business lawyer and member of the MMM, is to agree on the aspect declaration of interests, but it goes a little further. For total transparency, "we need to know what is written in the minutes of the Board when the question of the building was discussed. Is Khushal Lobine was present? He took part in the deliberations? He said his interest? '

In June 2008, Khushal Lobine and Rakesh Gooljaury shareholders find themselves in Lubines Holdings Anisthabaye with Natasha and Ruggoo Habeemanoo Soornack. Other companies Khushal Lobine bind with the axis-Gooljaury Soornack. The current president of the Waste Water Management Authority, Khushal Lobine is present alongside the same tandem, this time in Pride Bridge Co Ltd, registered on 10 June 2008. It was he who proceed to the registration of Airway Coffee, at the airport, company owned and Rakesh Gooljaury Nandanee Soornack. It will also handle the registration of the company Nuovo Luna Co Ltd whose shareholders are Nandanee Soornack and son.

For the period 2008-2009, Khushal Lobine, has not yet made its entry into the SICOM. The Registrar of Companies, one learns that Khushal Lobine, Harish Chundunsing and Anisthabye Ruggoo transfer each 5 shares Nandanee Soornack in November 2012. The three partners have 20 shares while in Lubines Holdings. Specifying the nature of its relations with Rakesh Gooljaury, Khushal Lobine argues that it is his "friend" and "client".

Khushal Lobine on Radio Plus: "There is nothing wrong ... '

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sicom defended himself Tuesday on Radio Plus, asking: "Where is there conflict of interest? "One of his main arguments is that he is the head of SICOM since January 2012 and that the" Letter of intent "of January 2011.

Khushal Lobine says he did nothing wrong. And assert that the ICAC, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and any other institution that would investigate the SICOM or on it are welcome. For him, being a shareholder in a company where Gooljaury have interests did not prevent him from acting as a lawyer: "My services were selected for the incorporation of Airway Coffee and Lubines Holdings Ltd.. There is nothing wrong with a client or a friend or relative and that retain my services. These two companies have not operated, have no transaction and no financial statement. An application has been made for the same closure. Is that as a lawyer Corporate Law, I can not incorporate a company because it belongs to a friend? '

Khushal Lobine and returns on the transaction between SICOM and Arushi Development Ltd.. And notes that the application was made in September 2010, the "Letter of intent" of January 2011, when he was appointed SICOM in 2012.

"I am not the legal advisor of Arushi Development Ltd.. I am the head of the Sicom since 2012. Procedures were initiated their course. It is unfortunate that drags on the ground SICOM

policy, "said Khushal Lobine who understand that this transaction is an activity that would have increased the assets of the SICOM. In the process, he insists that Lubines Holdings Ltd has "no transaction" with the SICOM.

Rajen Bablee "ICAC must initiate an investigation"

Director of Transparency Mauritius, Rajen Bablee believes it is "important that the Anticorruption Commission (ICAC) initiates an investigation" because he believes the public needs to know how public money is used. And clarify that must verify the facts in their accuracy to determine the role of each person.

Rajen Bablee stresses the need to refocus the debate and focus on the facts: "Corruption remains corruption, whether small or large. Often we hear that it is the small fish that are caught. Large corruptions concern people who have deep pockets. And it is on this point to be careful based on the facts so that these people do not say in court that there was abuse. "

Purchase of a building to Rs 600 million - The SICOM justified but does not explain everything

SICOM wants to dot the i's, but it does not clear up all the gray areas surrounding the purchase of a building under construction in Ebony for about Rs 600 million. Several questions remain unanswered.

SICOM said he wanted to play the card of transparency. However, several shadows hover always on the transaction of Rs 591 million, on the purchase of a building project in Ebene Cybercity. This happened last September. The property in question belonged to a company which is a major shareholder Rakesh Gooljaury, business partner and Nandanee Soornack Khushal Lobine.

If SICOM Insurance Company of the State, "reassured" that "this transaction has been processed seamlessly by the principles of good governance and investment processes according to rigorous SICOM" in a press release pay Tuesday, she does not explain if Khushal Lobine, president of the company, or was not present when the Board considered the said issue last August.

Another question remained without real answer: why SICOM she decides to consider a real estate project that is still at an early stage? A project for which the SICOM has also not applied.

In its statement, the company argues that "diversified portfolio of investments SICOM to a component property and other assets with the objective of creating value over the long term. The Board is fully satisfied that the decision to invest in the project in question is appropriate having regard to criteria such as cost, market conditions, the attractiveness Ebony pole as real estate development and financial center and projected profitability of the investment. "

But why have committed to buy a building not yet built to Rs 591 million instead to explore the market to find an existing building? SICOM does not explain what it intends to do this construction.

Especially, at the moment, finding tenants is not easy. Currently, 100,000 square feet of office space are empty Cybercity, says an informed source from the Business Parks of Mauritius Ltd (BPML), the manager of the premises. Moreover, even the Cybertower I, rental rates have been revised downward. They went from U.S. $ 1.75 per square foot to $ 1.30 U.S.. Despite this, there is still room to take.

Laval Savrimootoo, president of the Association of Realtors confirms that finding a buyer to fill office space Ebony is not easy. "There is a slowdown in Ebony because prices are too high. Many office spaces are not leased. While large companies can afford to pay the price, midsize companies prefer to install, for example, Quatre-Bornes and convert houses into offices for a much lower price. "And to clarify:" This trend will continue for some time, because to have a return on investment, developers Ebony maintain a high rent. "

If SICOM taking a risk by engaging in the purchase of a building not yet built, she said that this decision was made "after lengthy negotiations from 2010 to 2012." Then, "instead of successive payments as is usually the case, there was a minimal payment of 0.5% of the transaction value, (...), and the balance will be payable at the received in 2014 the building constructed according to the specifications selected by the specialists SICOM. " Therefore no question for the developer to deliver a poorly constructed building. Then, "the financing of the construction is the responsibility of the promoter."

Contacted by The Daily Challenge, Paul Bérenger, Leader of the Opposition, declined to comment. Jugnauth, leader of the MSM, commenting on the other hand the statement Wednesday, after studying.

Reza Uteem, a member of MMM is surprising that a businessman "with no experience in the construction was able to obtain a lease for two acres of land in the Cybercity, then go to the SICOM to ask to purchase the building it plans to build it. SICOM and said yes to Rs 600 million to a man who, a priori, has no experience in the field. Once the guarantee is obtained, the developer goes to a bank to apply for funding. It's like the government will finance the project from the outset. If SICOM wanted as a building Ebony, why not have a call for tender? ". So many questions remain unanswered.

Lawsuit against two newspaper groups - Nandanee Soornack contest judge Balancy

Labour activist, through his solicitor Mr Cader Mallam-Hassam, Tuesday sent a letter to the chief judge of its intention to ask the judge to recuse himself Balancy Eddy in the case between Nandanee Soornack La Sentinelle Ltd The Mauritius Ltd and. Asked Tuesday, the judge was not available for reaction.

Yet another twist! Mallam-Hassam me Cader invoke as a reason to support the request, a "rapprochement" between a media group, named as a party in the case, and the judge Eddy Balancy. He had been appointed to succeed Judge Monday Bushan Domah to hear the dispute declared by Nandanee Soornack against two newspaper groups in the Supreme Court. In a statement to Daily Challenge on Monday, Balancy judge had argued that the "case is a case Soornack another. Major interests are at stake as well as constitutional issues. "

This case is called Wednesday morning and it was originally planned that the judge Eddy Balancy asked lawyers to establish a work schedule. It would have continued with discussions initiated previously by the judge Bushan Domah in his "ruling" and that remain outstanding. Namely, how far can it press intrude into the privacy of citizens in a democratic society? And also, how Nandanee Soornack can claim to be protected in their rights to privacy, since claims not to be a public figure?

Justice Bushan Domah recused himself last Friday, after stating that the media coverage "has tended to put in doubt" his "integrity, Impartiality and independence in handling this case." That day, he was scheduled to decide on this principle: if the interim order issued on January 5 against the Sentinel and The Mauritian should be converted interlocutory order.

Note that Nandanee Soornack had made a request for a permanent injunction, Thursday, Jan. 17, against these two media groups. It requires the Supreme Court to prohibit them from publishing information about his private life and his family. Next hearing on this application on February 7.

Dharam Naugah "Gooljaury not receive any preferential treatment"

In the interview with the Daily Challenge, page 7, Dharam Naugah, President of Business Parks of Mauritius, insists Rakesh Gooljaury not receive any treatment. He says, therefore, that he received no discount on the amount of the lease, before pointing out that the granting of land of two acres to the businessman became transparent. "Anyone can come and do any business at Cybercity," says Dharam Naugah.


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