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US help to be sought in finding smuggler of gold stolen in Curacao

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)

The recently elected Guyana government has confirmed that the 70 bars of gold stolen off a Guyana-registered vessel originated from this country, and wants the United States (US) to help find the smuggler, Governance Minister, Raphael Trotman said.

“I don’t think that there is any doubt that the gold came from Guyana,” he said. “So when we were dealing in our instance with an illegal movement, they were dealing with robbery of an asset that was lawfully within Curacao,” he added.

The then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration had said there was uncertainty about whether the 450 pounds of gold had come from Guyana or Suriname, another gold producing country.

Speaking with reporters, Trotman said a “quite sparse” report by the previous administration shows that Curacao had been treating the incident as a robbery because authorities on that Dutch Caribbean island had been properly notified that a quantity of gold had been legally expected aboard the MV Summer Bliss. “In the opinion of the authorities in Curacao, the gold was legally landed because a few days before they were formally notified that there would be a shipment of gold transiting Curacao so no names were mentioned and, in fact, the report says that when requests were made to provide information about this official notification, the people in Curacao sort of froze up,”  said Trotman who has ministerial oversight for natural resources and the environment.

With the in-house report not pointing fingers at anyone, he said government would soon be asking the US for information that could help in tracing who was the exporter. “I am due to have discussions with some US officials within the next two weeks and we are hoping to take it a little further,” he said.

The gold was snatched by several men in November 2012.

The Minister of Governance declined to say whether there was any link between gold smuggling and drug trafficking, and whether funds are being used to finance terrorism elsewhere. “We are not aware of it right now but I cannot rule out or rule in anything,” he said.

With a large amount of the yellow metal being smuggled to Suriname, that is expected to be a hot issue on the agenda of a Guyana-Suriname ministerial meeting to be held either at Springlands across the Corentyne River in Nickerie.

A Task Force has already held several meetings to ferret out who are the gold smugglers and the amount of that resource that is being shuttled out of the country. The task force is made up of representatives of 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

The Finance Ministry recently estimated that at least 15,000 ounces of gold are being smuggled out of Guyana each week.