THERE are documented instances of properties being sold without their owners' knowledge but the Legal Affairs Ministry has implemented systems to prevent this in the past two years, said Legal Affairs Ministry communications and policy adviser Anil Goorahoo.
Goorahoo was speaking to the Express during a telephone interview in response to the case of 58-year-old Clifford Mendez from Woodbrook.
Mendez had collapsed on July 19 during a one-man protest outside the Legal Affairs Ministry head office on South Quay, Port of Spain.
He said he had spent all of Wednesday night there and his collapse was possibly due to exhaustion.
He had placed a blue folding chair outside the Ministry and held up placards that read "Stop Corruption Now at Legal Affairs" and "Pages Torn From Folios".
He reported that he and a friend were attempting to purchase a property in Chaguanas. He said the searches, done by them and other parties, showed the property was "clean initially". He claimed that when the buyer did another search about a month ago he was informed by the staff that a page went missing from the land registry folio and an investigation had been launched.
"From then to now they cannot say what happening," he said.
Mendez reported that he was successful in meeting with Deputy Registrar General Francis Sandy but he was not told the result of the investigation.
In response to the allegation that a page had been torn out of the land registry folio, Goorahoo said in the past there have been instances of this occurring but due to client confidentiality he could not deny or confirm the particular claim.
Mendez expressed concern that other citizens may have had similar problems and criticised the Legal Affairs filing system as archaic. He vowed to continue the protest but he was not present when the Express visited Friday.
Goorahoo told the Express the property in question was "not entirely above board" and he was "baffled" that Mendez, who represented the buyer, was pushing for the transaction to go ahead. He stressed that the Ministry has a responsibility to protect the buyer and the State, which by extension was the taxpayers.
A Ministry press release Friday stated "upon conducting its investigations that are routine to land transactions, the MLA concluded there were several issues which needed to be addressed and which necessarily required further investigations. The MLA's respect for client confidentiality prevents us from giving details of the issues involved or of details of the investigations".
The Ministry noted that for this particular transaction, which prompted the one-man protest, the protection offered by the Ministry's detailed investigations "is largely for the benefit of the very buyer whom the 'protester' purports to represent".
The Ministry stated: "The Registrar General's Department (RGD) of the Ministry of Legal Affairs wishes to assure the general public that it treats all matters coming before it with the greatest level of care and attention. Over the past two years, in particular, the RGD has taken a number of steps to improve its efficiency as well as to ensure the security of its records. This has been necessary to protect law-abiding citizens from potential fraudulent activity which can result in significant losses."