Guyana:Five million US dollars missing

FROM all indications, the Government of Guyana (GoG) is finding it difficult to pinpoint who had collected the outstanding US$5M owed the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) by Chinese Company Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group for the sale of the state’s 20% shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.

The Chinese company had purchased government’s 20 per cent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited (GTT) in 2012.

The shares were sold at US$30M, but the company paid only US$25M.

A few weeks ago, Minister of State Joseph Harmon and NICIL’s in-house attorney, Natalia Seepersaud, visited China where they engaged in discussions pertaining to the outstanding US$5M owed for the purchase of the 20 per cent shares in GTT.

It was discovered by virtue of documentation that the outstanding US$5M was paid over to the NICIL, despite the fact that NICIL’s former head Winston Brassington had said that the money had not been paid.

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Raphael Trotman, disclosed on Wednesday at a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency, that the Government of Guyana (GoG) is currently trying to locate the US$5M that was outstanding to the government.

However, Trotman told the media that it was discovered by Minister of State Harmon that the money was paid to NICIL before May 16 last year.

It is unclear whom specifically the money was paid to under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration.

“What I can say is that Mr. Harmon has been able to retrieve some documents which tell a different story and that story is that the $5 million was paid and we are trying to track down to whom, when and where and that was before May 16, 2015,” said Minister Trotman.

He said too that the Minister of State has provided a “full report” on the issue to Cabinet, while noting that NICIL’s board is currently examining the findings.

That report is to be made public soon, Trotman told the media. Money from the sale of Government’s shares in GTT was used by NICIL, headed at that time by Brassington, to offset expenses at the controversial Marriott Hotel, Kingston. Brassington had made this disclosure at his last media briefing before being sent on leave by the APNU+AFC administration.

Minister Harmon was quoted in one section of the media as saying that Government had explored the option of taking Datang to court for the outstanding US$5M. “We have only two options, one of which is to take Datang to court,” Harmon was quoted as saying.

In the very article, the Minister of State said the other course of action would be to seek the intervention of the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana Zhang Limin.

(Guyana Chronicle)