Sunday, June 26, 2022

Ramps says legal action on the cards over local content spat

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Ramps Logistics’ chief executive, Shaun Rampersad came out in defense of the efforts it made to receive a Guyana local content certificate, including divestment of 51% of the company to a man with Guyanese citizenship named Deepak Lall. This was done so the company could access opportunities available to Guyanese companies, as a result of the recently established Local Content Act.

Rampersad said Ramps followed the letter and spirit of the law but was still refused, and signaled intent to take legal action, during a press conference held in Georgetown on Thursday.

The conference conveyed how dissatisfied Ramps was, that despite asking the local content secretariat for a reason why it was refused a certificate, it got no response. The company provided two lawyers’ letters from Satram & Satram Attorneys at Law sent on June 10 and 21, addressed to Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat and Director of the Local Content Secretariat, Martin Pertab. The second letter was carbon-copied to the Attorney General, Mohabir Anil Nandlall.

Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo had said recently that the government is having difficulties with some companies trying to circumvent the Local Content Act, and that the government may very well end up in Court with them. But Rampersad could not say whether Dr. Jagdeo was talking about Ramps.

Journalists asked several questions about the background and whereabouts of Ramps’ new Guyanese majority shareholder, and why he was not around to speak for himself. Rampersad related that Lall is in Trinidad, but that he would be in Guyana for press conference #2. He could not say when that would be.

It was revealed that Lall, who was not born in Guyana, only got his Guyanese passport in 2021.

“He got his Guyanese passport, last year – 2021… That’s the first time that he has had a Guyanese passport,” Rampersad said.

Rampersad did not agree with the perspective that Lall applied for his Guyanese passport as a convenience, but that he means to come back and invest in Guyana and capitalise on the growth the country is experiencing.

Lall, according to a media package Ramps shared, is the managing director of Qualitech Machining Services Limited, a Trinidadian company. Rampersad said Lall, who he said Ramps has previous business ties to, plans to come to Guyana with big investment plans outside of his involvement with Ramps.

Lall paid GY$210 million for the 51% stake, and in so doing, also became a director, Rampersad said. The Ramps CEO said the payment made by Lall was roughly equivalent to the value of the shares.

The requirement to have a majority Guyanese shareholding is one of the requirements to be categorised as a Guyanese company, according to the Local Content Act 2021.

A Guyanese company is defined in the Local Content Act as a company incorporated under the Companies Act, and cedes ownership of at least 51% of it to Guyanese nationals.

In addition to this, the company must have Guyanese nationals holding at least 75% of executive and senior management positions and at least 90% holding non-managerial and other positions.

According to the media package, Ramps’ senior management is comprised 89% of Guyanese nationals – 17 out of a total of 19. A list of names was provided.

In non-managerial positions, the package indicates there are 128 staffers, all of which are Guyanese.

As far as the letter of the Act goes, Ramps’ disclosures indicate that that was followed. But some reporters questioned whether the company could not find a locally stationed investor who has business in Guyana and the funds to buy the shares.

He said he is sure that there are worthy investors already in Guyana, but that for various reasons, several proposals were weeded out. He explained too that Ramps wanted to find an investor who could add value to the company, and Lall fit the bill. He also figured that bringing someone from the diaspora “back to Guyana” would be in-keeping with the aim of Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have the wealthy, experienced diaspora contribute to national development.

Rampersad conveyed that if the company is refused the certificate in finality, it will not leave Guyana. He could not say how much the company would estimably lose out if it does not get the certification. However, he said it may have to let some of its staffers go, almost all of which he said are Guyanese.

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