Last Updated on Saturday, 15 July 2023, 7:11 by Denis Chabrol
At least two well-known members of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) are defending the Mohammeds- Nazar and his son Azruddin- in the face of an international news agency’s report that they were being investigated by the United States (US) for allegedly being involved in multi-million dollar money laundering, gold smuggling and narco-trafficking.
A Reuters News agency report quotes unnamed sources and intelligence reports that the United States (US) government had repeatedly warned American supermajor oil company, ExxonMobil, against doing business with the Mohammeds because of their alleged links to transnational crimes including with links to Russia and the Middle East. ExxonMobil has inked an agreement to lease a US$300 million shorebase that the Mohammeds are shareholders in.
Reuters reported that if the US imposes sanctions on the Mohameds, ExxonMobil would be forced to sever its business relationship with any sanctioned individuals or companies.
Outgoing City Mayor Ubraj Narine and former PNCR parliamentarian James Bond said in separate statements that the Reuters News agency report provided no proof that the businessmen were engaged in illicit activities.
“Mayor Pt. Ubraj Narine has expressed his strong support for Mr. Azruddin Mohamed, a respected businessman and contractor associated with Exxon in Guyana. Following an extensive investigation conducted by the United States authorities, no evidence has been found to substantiate the allegations against Mr. Mohamed. Mayor Narine considers the claims to be baseless and believes they were made with the intention of tarnishing Mr. Mohamed’s reputation,” according to the statement posted on his official Facebook page. The Mayor is quoted as saying that he has confidence in the “integrity and character” of Mr Azruddin Mohammed. “The reputation of individuals and businesses should not be tarnished without concrete evidence,” he said.
Mr Bond, who had several months ago indicated on a Facebook Live video that the PNCR should not alienate itself from financiers such as Mohammed’s enterprise, said investigations into years-old “serious and damning” allegations against the Mohammeds had proven to be true. “There was no truth found in the allegations,” he said. He claimed that none of Reuters sources were from Guyanese and United States law enforcement agencies such as police, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Justice. “We believe that this article is rubbish,” he said.
In his Facebook post Mr Bond said his friendship with Azruddin Mohammed has nothing to do with money, but he said the majority of their communication is about providing financial assistance to persons.
Recently, the Mohammeds had hired a Washington DC-based lobbying firm, BGR Group, that submitted a dossier of its findings to the US Embassy in an effort to prove that there was no evidence to support allegations of gold smuggling, terrorism or homicide against well-known city businessman so that they could be once again granted American visas.
Referring to the fact that the Mohameds’ inability to travel overseas, Mr Bond said, “So what if they can’t travel…and as I said it’s all because of the allegations.” Mr Bond added that, “I’m not afraid of the US.”
For their part, the Mohammeds deemed the Reuters news agency report a “most vile diabolical sloppy hatchet job” aimed at creating the appearance that they are in a position of conflict with the US law enforcement agencies. “The Mohameds categorically deny that they are the subject of any investigations by any US authorities. In response to a request by Reuters to respond to these baseless allegations, the Mohameds not only specifically denied these allegations but challenged Reuters to produce any evidence to support the allegations made in the report,” the businessmen said in a statement on Friday. The businessmen said they remained “fully committed to upholding the law and conducting our business operations with the highest standards of legitimacy and integrity.”
As Mayor, Mr Narine is a member of the PNCR’s General Council, that party’s second highest decision-making body in between its congresses.
Mr Mohamed recently contested the Local Government Elections as a candidate for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).