Last Updated on Thursday, 7 January 2016, 15:56 by Denis Chabrol
Some 15,000 ounces of raw gold are being transported out of Guyana weekly, says Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman who disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States (US) Homeland Security are looking into the issue.
Trotman made the disclosure at a press conference on Wednesday detailing that while some of the gold comes directly from Guyana, some of it is sourced from other South American nations.
The Minister indicated the gold leaves via several ports making its way to the United States, Brazil, Suriname and Europe.
The Gold Board recently announced that it has recorded 451,490 ounces of declared gold, surpassing 2015’s target of 380,000 ounces and raking in some export earnings of approximately US$500 million. This made gold mineral, the largest earner of foreign currency for Guyana.
According to Trotman, on an annual basis some 50%-60% of Guyana’s real gold productions is smuggled out of the country, which would take production levels to just under one million ounces.
He stated that he was recently part of a brief with the FBI and US Homeland Security which are conducting investigations into the matter and had reached out to local officials.
Trotman announced that local law enforcement officials and related agencies were working constantly to tighten all the loopholes through which the precious metal is being smuggled.
Only recently, Guyana had asked the United States for assistance to help convict a man for allegedly smuggling large quantities of gold to New York.
Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo businessman, Christopher Baldeo is accused of smuggling almost US$69,142 worth of gold to the United States between February 6 and 7, 2015.
The last time he appeared in court, the police prosecutor asked the Court for yet another adjournment to allow for a request to be made to the US for the relevant certified and notarised documents to show that the gold was declared in New York. For overseas documents to be legally admissible in court another jurisdiction, they first must be notarized and certified in the country of origin.
Guyanese investigators are alleging that Baldeo, who is not a licensed gold exporter, did not declare the gold to Customs Officers before departing Guyana through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport February 6, 2015.