Guyana to implement ‘regime of penalties and sanctions’ for gold smuggling, following U.S. expose

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Guyana’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo says a range of tougher penalties and sanctions will be introduced for persons caught smuggling large quantities of gold. This follows an expose by the United States, of gold smuggling, tax evasion and corruption involving wealthy Guyanese businessmen, Nazar and Azruddin Mohamed, and a government official, Mae Thomas.

“The rewards of smuggling seem to be greater; the foregone tax revenue seems to be a big incentive. We have to take away that incentive now by putting a regime of penalties and sanctions [for] smuggling a large quantity of gold,” Jagdeo said during a Thursday press conference.

The Mohameds were sanctioned for public corruption, including defrauding the Guyana government of more than US$50 million in duty taxes, while Thomas, a former Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs, was sanctioned for being the recipient of bribes to facilitate awards of government contracts.

Jagdeo said the government has sought information from U.S. authorities related to the wrongdoings that led to the imposition of sanctions. He said the Guyana government indicated a time by which they need the information submitted, as there is a statute of limitations on some crimes. 

“We have also asked all of the other agencies that have some form of engagement with the Mohameds to review their transactions and present a report to the government of Guyana to ensure that we are in full compliance with the sanction regime,” he stated.

So far, the Central Bank of Guyana has revoked the license of Confidential Cambio, owned by the Mohameds. Jagdeo said the government does not want its entities to be exposed to potential sanctions. 

The government, Jagdeo reported, already began a review of contract awards issued to the Mohameds in the period noted in the sanctions announcement. He said the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Gold Board are also examining the process leading to the export of gold.

He explained that the government wants to know the names of the officials involved in the corrupt acts stated in the U.S. release. “Any official of the government who’s been involved in any act that is inimical to the interests of the government… or the State of Guyana, and been engaged in any corrupt act, they will face the penalties. There will be no protection,” the Vice President stated.

Thomas, the official who the U.S. said received bribes, was sent on leave by the government. Jagdeo said Thomas issued notice to him, in his capacity as General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), that she has resigned from the organization’s Central Committee. Jagdeo said he was sorry to receive the resignation because he knows Thomas and that she works hard. He however said that if the government is satisfied that she was involved in wrongdoings, she will face the necessary penalties. 

The Mohameds had rejected allegations of money laundering, drug trafficking, and gold smuggling made in a July 14 Reuters report. However, following the allegations, the Mohameds pulled out of the Vreed-en-Hoop Shore Base Inc. (VEHSI) project being executed by NRG Holdings and Jan De Nul. VEHSI developed a facility that will serve ExxonMobil’s Yellowtail project, expected to achieve first oil in 2025. 


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