By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Natural Resources (lands), Gaspar Vega, has denied giving instructions for the Lands Department to compulsorily take land from one businessman to accommodate another who is now charged with plotting four murders.
Vega told reporters that, contrary to a court testimony by Commissioner of Lands Wilbert Vallejos, he did not instruct the Lands Department in 2013 to acquire land from businessman, Michael Modiri to accommodate the owner of Dark Night tours, Bradley Paumen, now accused of plotting the murders of Modiri and three other persons.
While Vallejos had informed the court in 2015 that it was Vega who gave the orders to acquire Modiri’s land, Vega flatly denied the allegation.
“I don’t know if Mr. Vallejos said that, but I did not give such – if that’s where you’re going to I did not give such a directive. … I remember that there was – not a real dispute, but I think the man wanted an access to his land and government had acquired a piece of land from someone else for him to be able to have access to his land. We went to Court and the ruling had said, if I’m not mistaken, that it was done improperly…because it had to be the Ministry of Works who would have the technical people to see if that was the right…the adequate piece of land to access…Mr. Paumen’s parcel,” Vega said.
Modiri, who was away when the Ministry made the decision, discovered upon his return that a road had already been built on his land.
Supreme Court Justice, Sonya Young, in a 16-page decision, found the Ministry’s decision to be improper and referred to the case as, “a strange tale of a man’s property being bulldozed and cleared without his permission.”
Vega said he was not aware of Vallejos’ claim and only found out on Friday when the media brought up the issue. When asked if the matter was placed on his desk as the then Minister of Lands, Vega responded: “I remember the case and the only thing that – if I’m not mistaken, that even came to Cabinet and the only thing we were concerned about is that Paumen was making a significant investment in tourism on that parcel of land and we were trying to see if he could be helped in getting access to his land.”