Guyana begins to cash in ExxonMobil signing bonus to cover legal fees at ICJ

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Guyana has begun the preliminary process in order to cycle funds from an US$18M signing bonus received from ExxonMobil in 2016, to defend its border controversy case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The move is documented in a Financial Paper presented to the Guyanese 65 Member National Legislative Assembly which convened on Thursday.

The Financial Document includes a request for US$4M of the total amount.

According to the document submitted by Guyana’s Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, the money is “to meet the estimated cost in 2018 of presenting Guyana/Venezuela controversy at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) including payment of legal fees.”

The request is being made for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tasked with handling the country’s international litigation.

Following the tabling of the Finance Paper, Minister Jordan will secure a date for a debate after which the money is expected to be withdrawn from the special account and cycled through the national coffers.

The Guyana/Venezuela border controversy was referred to the ICJ in January by United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gueterres, following a failed ‘Good Offices’ attempt.

Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, is the lead attorney on the Guyanese legal team.

The Attorneys-at-Law include Sir Shridath—himself a former Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paul Reichler and Payam Akvan.

Guyana contends that the border matter had in fact been settled between Venezuela and Guyana in the 1899 Tribunal Ruling, and then accepted by both parties.

Venezuela, following Guyana’s independence in 1966, began disputing the validity of the 1899 Ruling.

The matter reached a flashpoint when a US seismic vessel contracted by Anadarko to map for hydrocarbons offshore Guyana was detained by the Venezuelan military and the vessel and its crew taken into that country’s territory.

The crew was charged with operating illegally in Venezuela—a claim the Guyanese authorities vehemently protested.

Tensions escalated again in 2015 days after US oil major ExxonMobil announced that it had made a world-class discovery in the Guyana Stabroek Block.