AGRICULTURE Minister Clarence Rambharat said there were cases of fraudsters shopping the same parcel of land to different buyers. “There is little we can do to stop that except through the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.”
He was contributing to Senate debate on Tuesday on the Registration of Titles to Land bill. Earlier, Independent Senator Melissa Ramkissoon in her contribution said she had heard of three people paying down for the same parcel of land and this was happening with the Caroni lands.
Rambharat in response said the Caroni lands were an example of how impossible it was to determine how many times someone had offered a deed for sale and there were fraudsters. He said that people could just “Google” fraud in Trinidad and people would see cases. He also said the Law Association has put out information on land fraud and practitioners have expressed concern about it.
“As a minister I have referred matters to the Fraud Squad and I have referred matters elsewhere and it deals with fraud and it is not something that should be taken lightly. Rambharat said the state of land administration in this country was “highly undesirable.”
He gave the example of Leo Joseph who on October 28, 1998 received a letter from the National Housing Authority regarding squatter regularisation for a property in River Estate. In letters from the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) in 2002 and 2004, the LSA stated there was no objection to Joseph receiving electricity from the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission and the Water and Sewerage Authority respectively.
He said in June 2004 Joseph received a receipt from the district revenue office for land and building taxes, and added that squatters do pay property taxes. Rambharat said that Joseph received nothing until 2014 when he received a letter from the Housing Ministry that he had been selected for a home improvement grant via a random draw but, after run around with several agencies, in 2016 the Housing Development Corporation said the application was denied due to insufficient documentation.
Rambharat said Joseph died and on March 6, 2018 his widow, Marva Mendoza, in a hand written letter outlined the issues from 1998 to 2018 and how she was still not able to get something to say she occupied that parcel of land. “This is what I deal with every day as a minister.”
He said conversely there was a case of a piece of land valued $750,000 in a built-up area in Auzonville, Tunapuna and approvals were granted in two months. “When I see things like this then I must do my duty as a minister.” He said the bill will serve the interest of people like Leo Joseph and his widow. “They are entitled, if only by virtue of occupation, that right be done by them.”