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Task Force to go after gold smugglers; some info to be released

The Guyana-registered MV Summer Bliss from which 70 pounds of gold were snatched in November 2012 while docked at Curacao (photo by the Telegraph)

Several government agencies are networking to collect and process information about a multi-billion dollar international gold smuggling racket to as far away as the Middle East, according to Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman.

Authorities also hope to unearth and revive a probe into the stealing of more than 450 pounds of gold from a Guyanese-registered vessel, Summer Bliss, in Curacao in November 2012.

He said the Serious Organised Crimes Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Revenue Authority, Guyana Gold Board, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Asset Recovery Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency are to form a task force to address the issue.

“We looked at the various arms or the tentacles of this problem particularly the export end. We discussed collaboration with foreign countries and we have agreed to establish a task force to ensure greater collaboration at all ends,” he said.

The Minister of Governance, who is responsible for the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Ministry of the Presidency, said representatives from those agencies related at Wednesday’s meeting that they were “in the dark” about various aspects of the legal and illegal trade in gold.

The Task Force is scheduled to meet in another two weeks to refine its action plan and make limited information available. “Not all because this is a sensitive matter and it involves billions of dollars- not just Guyana dollars but US dollars,” he said

Guyana’s gold goes as far as the Middle East, China and Europe. “There are big interest here and abroad that have their hands on the export; not all of it is illegitimate. We do want to facilitate the legitimate export of gold,” said the Minister.

Referring the 70 bars of gold that were stolen from the Summer Bliss while it was docked at Curacao, Trotman said “we are trying to track that down and get a better handle on it.” He said he has been unable so far to locate a report on the Curacao gold heist but he was making valiant efforts to salvage it. “There seems to be an effort to keep it buried so we have to go find it and then unearth it as best as we can,” he said.

The Minister said individual agencies have been communicating with the relevant agencies in Suriname and Brazil about gold smuggling to those countries. He cautioned against inquiries without sufficient information for fear of being embarrassed.

The smuggling of Guyana’s gold regained the spotlight several weeks ago when Demerara Waves Online News first reported that more than GUY$40 billion of the precious metal had been smuggled to the United States as “scrap gold” between late last year and early this year.