OPINION: What will the PPP Gov’t do with access to information networks?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 December 2022, 8:54 by Writer

by GHK Lall

I note with interest the development where Guyana has joined regional information sharing networks to facilitate going after financial criminals (Demerara Waves, December 11, 2022). On the face of it, this is good for Guyana, with many possible pluses. On the other hand, for those familiar with the real Guyana, the one below the surface glitter, this is a double-edged sword, one that could end up doing more harm than good. It would leave the optimistic in a pickle, and the PPP Government smiling like a contented fat cat since it has now been given insider status near the milk bucket.

Guyana being on the inside of financial information sharing networks would provide the PPP Government with access to intelligence that it doesn’t currently have. Or pretends to be ignorant of, maybe not even wanting to know. Such financial networks identify origins, personnel, routes, and destinations of dirty money travels. These encircle the foundation and architecture of major commercial and other white-collar crimes, and of which money laundering is almost always a key ingredient. We have had and continue to have such financial crimes at work—some would say flourishing—in this country for decades, and this casts a huge shadow over Guyana.

The PPP Government, and the man leading the charge in this arena, the Hon Attorney General, may slickly wave off any such assertions, and for several reasons. First, it interferes with the government’s claims that things in this country are clean, which could blight foreign interest directed here. Second, that the people with whom it does business have passed through the scrutiny wringer, and that they have come out looking and smelling like fresh laundry. Third, that it has zero interest and tolerance for dealing with financially dirty people who engage in dirty money games, which leads to a dirty reputation for beloved Guyana.

On all three counts, the PPP Government is the epitome of hypocrisy, of sustained deviousness, and of double talking, double dealing, and doubling down on what already existed root and branch during its prior lengthy 23-year stint in government. The very people that its handpicked agents in selected state institutions approve for considerable business awards in Guyana have reputations (to put it courteously) in international financial law enforcement circles that are most revealing. Or, to present in a different way, less than stellar, outright serial financial bandits of the heavy duty, ‘most wanted’, kind. Guyana’s previous AG knows them, and the current one may also know them. In fact, I go so far as to point out that some of the men on financial crimes radars are so close to ranking ruling politicians in Guyana that they are looked upon as assets, friends, allies, and so forth. This is not a secret.

Moreover, the men and women whose names appear, in one form or another, and to varying degrees, on foreign law enforcement screens may have given huge sums of money to the PPP throughout the years, and never like during the last 2020 elections season. I remind everyone again that that was not ‘free’ money (highly suspected to be dark money). Furthermore, that when men and businesses, be they clean or tainted, donate cash in considerable sums, they expect returns many times over should electoral success grace their investments. If the little ones giving of time and foot soldiering expect a job, or a contract or something for a family member, then it stands to reason that the deep-pocketed (big money) people in business have even bigger visions dancing in their heads. This is what has resulted in our state and private operations, and this is what circles back to this financial crimes networks access. It is of who is within the inner circle.

Candidly, this creates a difficulty and tricky space in which the PPP Government and AG have to operate. Now there is access to more information, and of a highly sensitive quality, it would be interesting to learn what would be done with such. It can only protect people for so long. The smaller fish don’t matter as much; the big ones will furnish the truths of where all this talk, this optimism, this access lead. In one of its prior inglorious sessions in the boardrooms of governance, the cry of foreign law enforcement was that the PPP protected targets (its own) by feeding them advance information so that they jumped shipped, when the outsiders moved in to collect them. Firsthand, I can share that American officials once based here were very familiar with who was who where financial crimes were the subject under discussion. Using that as a baseline, plus their very low evaluation of a cadre of ruling officials, my thinking is that even more is known now, and more involved, when so much more could be, and is, camouflaged under fossil fuel downstream and supporting activities. Said differently, source of funds: where they came from, and where they end up, especially locally. This could embarrass a number of our own financial institutions, which have gained unwanted publicity for laying down the letter of anti-money laundering regulations on small people, but afford too much discretion to the big, tarnished, customers.

In essence, the sweet and sickly about Guyana and its involvement in financial crimes networks distill to this: how will the PPP Government use this treasure trove of information? Who will be insulated (like presently)? Where does this leave Guyana? The people who have the most knowledge of what goes on here and who are the players recently spoke of strong anticorruption laws, but also of weak actions noted. Comprehensive, consistent, and convincing actions could confirm the sincerity of the PPP Government in this regard. To date, such has not been happening. Too many friends, plenty money.