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Hard washing looms for money launderers in Guyana’s gold industry- authorities

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L to R: The GGMC’s Legal Adviser, Rosemary Benjamin-Noble; GGMC Commissioner, Rickford Vieria; Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud; President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, Patrick Harding and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Joslyn Mc Kenzie

Drug traffickers may soon find it tough to wash their ill-gotten gains by investing in the booming gold industry if all goes well, a senior official said Monday.

Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud said a team of legal experts have been “mandated to study the issue” of persons with dirty profiles entering the industry.

He explained that under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Acts,  the Guyana Geology and Mines Commisssion (GGMC) and the Guyana Gold Board would have to abide by “reporting obligations.”

“I am concerned and we are concerned that we may have actors who may want to get involved in the sector that may not have or enjoy too much of a clean background in this regard,” he said.

He later told DemWaves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that government hoped that Guyana’s eventual participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which aims to strengthen resource revenue transparency.

Legal Adviser to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Rosemary Benjamin-Noble said the mining laws do not provide for the screening of prospective miners.

“Once we are not specifically required to deal with that aspect, it’s going to be a little difficult for us to say ‘you’re excluded but you’re not’ and the basis for it because, off course, everything comes back to evidence,” she added.

The United States State Department’s 2005 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report had identified now convicted drug trafficker Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan as an exemplar of drug traffickers gaining a significant foothold in the timber industry with the purchase of Kaow Island, Essequibo River by a company named Aurelius in which Khan had a significant interest. “Such concessions in the remote interior may allow drug traffickers to establish autonomous outposts beyond the reach of Guyanese law enforcement,” the report states.

A United States diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks noted that Khan had links to now dead Swiss House Cambio dealer, Farouk Razac, had funded Muslim activities and had threatened to kill the Ambassador and the Regional Security Officer when an informant leaked an American plan to set up a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) counter narcotics operation in Guyana.

In that cable, the American envoy had credited government with being too cozy with Khan and would have done little to facilitate his arrest.

Khan was arrested in Suriname in June 2006 and put on a plane to Trinidad where he was snatched by US agents and taken to New York. He was convicted for cocaine trafficking in October 2009 and sentenced to 15 years jail after a plea bargain.