Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Investigation launched into former Finance Minister’s handling of US$18M signing bonus

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The actions of ex-Finance Minister Winston Jordan regarding the APNU+AFC government’s handling of the US$18 million signing bonus from ExxonMobil in 2016 is up for investigation according to Guyana’s Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, who made this disclosure on Thursday in a video update posted on social media.

The then APNU+AFC administration had received the funds when it signed the 2016 Stabroek Block Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil. But this was only made public as a result of intense criticism and repeated questions from the media.

The money was placed into an account at the Bank of Guyana (BoG) and later transferred into the Consolidated Fund.

Questions arose however, on why it was hidden from the public and why the money was not placed into the Consolidated Fund from the inception.

“The Finance Minister at the time completely denied having ever received that $18 million bonus and then we found that it was deposited in some account at the Central Bank authorised by him in writing,” Nandlall relayed.

The PPP/C government, then in Opposition, had pledged to launch an investigation into the deal and have now taken the necessary steps to see it through.

The AG revealed that the files on the matter have been compiled and will soon be forwarded to the state investigative agencies and may likely lead to charges being laid against the ex-minister.

In a statement last evening, Mr. Jordan said the allegations are “false, baseless, and repugnant” and designed to impugn his character, tarnish his image and lower his esteem in the eyes of family, friends, admirers, well-wishers and the general public.

“Moreover, they are intended to intimidate me, in light of my scathing criticism of the government’s approach to development of my beloved country. I cannot and will not be intimidated,” he said.

At the time the payment was made public, then President, David Granger, told reporters he made the decision not to disclose the payment of the signing bonus.

Mr. Granger said that setting up a special account at the Bank of Guyana to receive the payment is a “legitimate” act and not an indication of sinister intentions on the part of his administration.

“It is a legitimate Government of Guyana exercise. It is in the Bank of Guyana in an escrow account meaning it cannot be used for purposes not intended,” he told reporters.

ExxonMobil had indicated at the time that it paid the US$18M signing bonus but had no role in how the money is utilized by Guyana. “No role whatsoever. We operate with the highest standard of business conduct,” then Country Manager, Rod Henson said.

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