Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has revealed that his ministry is working closely with the Fraud Squad owing to the prevalence of land fraud in both state and private lands.
He was speaking to reporters after a lease-letter distribution to 28 recipients at the ministry’s Chaguanas headquarters on Tuesday.
Land fraud, he said, "is a big concern to me – the extent to which we have land fraud not only in state lands but private transactions too.”
He gave an example, saying over the Christmas holidays, he had been approached by a family living in the United Kingdom who said a fraudulent deed had appeared for a parcel of land in San Fernando.
“When they sent me the information, I was astonished, because it deals with a deed which was signed and registered in respect to a parcel of private land in San Fernando and it was signed by somebody five years after the person died.
And when you see something like that it raises serious concerns, because to do a fraudulent deed, you have to either convince a lawyer or you have to fake the signature of a lawyer and fake the signatures of the witnesses.”
He said the matter is further compounded because the real land owner lives in England, while the person whose name is on the fraudulent deed lives in the US.
He cited another example, this time involving Caroni lands.
“It’s shocking that people created fraudulent letterheads, created fraudulent names and job titles to support a transaction, and thankfully, as it came to me, I was familiar with the original application which was made in 2001, I knew that Caroni board had turned down the request for the land.
So I was able to look at all of the letters and know that they were fraudulent and know that the names were non-existent people.”
He said another matter engaging his attention involves a female security guard and her husband ,who paid $160,000 for a piece of state land but were now having difficulty in getting the land.
“I have been working closely with the Fraud Squad, I have regular contact with them because they are the ones to do the investigation.”
His advice was:“I want members of the public to be very careful, to work with reputable lawyers and if there is any matter relating to state land that they are involved in, just send me a letter, or contact my office and let me be able to guide them or ask the Commissioner (of State Lands) to guide them.”