COMMISSIONER of Lands, Alan McNeil – the man who this week lifted the lid on alleged fraudulent land dealings in Honiara – has vowed to keep pursuing police investigations to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.
Mr. McNeil made the stand as the relationship between his Office and that of the Registrar of Titles deteriorates further over the issue of Transfer of Fixed Term (FTE) titles.
It follows claims the office of the Commissioner of Lands has uncovered two cases of apparent fraud, including the forged signature of the Commissioner.
“I will keep pursuing these investigations to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. I also maintain that the Registrar of Titles must abide by my directions to ensure cases such as these never happen again, otherwise they could keep accepting and registering forged instruments,” Mr. McNeil said in a point-by-point response to claims by the office of the Registrar of Titles.
He described the claims, published by the Solomon Star two days ago as “untrue.”
“I wish to respond to some untrue claims made by the Registrar of Titles, as follows:
“The signature was his and the seal was genuine”.
“This is not true. The Registrar did not see me sign it, and he cannot possibly know. It is a good forgery but the stamp is slightly different from mine and any layperson can see that the signature has been drawn very slowly and the lines are shaky as a result. I am not expecting though for the Registrar of Titles to be an expert at reading signatures.
“His office is required to check if my signature is genuine by reading my spreadsheet but he is willfully ignoring my direction to do this,” Mr. McNeil said.
The Commissioner has also denied the Registrar of Titles Office has a receipt for the payment of the transfer of the title.
“This is not true. I have checked with our cashier and with the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT) and no payment was made for the land by the company AJ General Hardware. Only the registration fee and stamp duty were paid, not the Premium or land rents,” Mr. McNeil said.
He described as “more lies” claims that the Commissioner has since collected the documents from the RoT office. Why the Commissioner had to collect the so-called documents after it was deposited with us is what we are questioning. Because once you have deposited documents with us and they are in our custody you are not allowed to take them back from us.
“More lies,” the Commissioner said, adding,
“I borrowed the instrument with permission of RoT himself with Melody Perry as a witness, in order to scan it then I returned it straight back and handed it directly to the Registrar. It is in the custody of Registrar of Titles.”
Commissioner McNeil again denied checking the read-only spreadsheet is not a regulatory and non-binding matter on the office of the Registrar of Titles.
“This is not true. I have given directions under Section 5 of the Land and Titles Act to check this spreadsheet and the Registrar is willfully disobeying these directions,” he said.
On the claim that a person by the name of Rocky, well known to Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil and that he is the agent for this land dealing, the Commissioner said:
“I do not know this Rocky. I have never met him. All I know is that the name Rocky has been mentioned by the owners of both fraudulently signed FTEs. I am suspicious though as to how the Registrar knows Rocky is the agent? What information does he have on this, because this would be helpful for the police investigation,” the Commissioner said.
On the accusation that the Commissioner acted suspiciously “because he may have a clear knowledge of who is involved but because the FTE had already been surrendered, the case might just be buried under the carpet in order to protect someone. This is unacceptable because it will be seen as aiding and abetting forgery”, Commissioner McNeil said.
“I launched a police investigation straight away and I want to see those responsible brought to justice. Surrendering the FTE was the simplest way of dealing with the fraudulent FTE because the FTE owners were willing to surrender it back to the Commissioner of Lands.
“There is no point going to court when everyone involved is in agreement. This doesn’t mean “sweeping it under the carpet” because the police are investigating,” he said.
“The only reason these dealings have come to light is because, I have checked the Registrar of Titles Presentation Book, and cross-checked my own records to find these fraudulent dealings that had been accepted by the Registrar of Titles.
“If I hadn’t been checking this book, perhaps nobody would have found out about these fraudulent dealings until years later. I am the one who uncovered these cases, and who sought to have them corrected, and who reported these matters to the police and the media.
“I will keep pursuing these investigations to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
By Alfred Sasako