Last Updated on Thursday, 20 July 2023, 17:42 by Denis Chabrol
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday was mum on government’s next move to save a US$300 million investment in a new shorebase at Vreed-en-Hoop if the United States (US) imposes sanctions on key Guyanese players Nazar “Shell” Mohamed and his son Azruddin Mohamed are key players.
“If the US were to impose sanctions, then the government would have to assess how it deals with those sanctions and, of course, take steps to protect the interest of Guyana. That’s our primary concern,” he said. He said there could be several remedies but declined to provide details.
He told a news conference at his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) headquarters that the US has so far not informed the Guyana government that the Mohameds were the subject of a probe. “The government of Guyana has not been officially informed of any investigations into the Mohameds or what the charges are or what the allegations are at this stage; no official notification,” he said in response to a question by Demerara Waves Online News.
Mr Jagdeo added that “the government of Guyana will act on this matter when the US engages it officially if it engages the government of Guyana.”
A Reuters news agency report, citing intelligence reports and unnamed sources, fingers the Mohameds in drug trafficking, gold smuggling and money laundering and said if the US government sanctions them, ExxonMobil could be forced to cut ties from the deal. The Mohameds have denied the allegations and have challenged Reuters to provide the evidence.
Pressed on options available to the government, the Vice President declined to say what those could be at this stage.
Despite the fact that the Reuters report has linked the Mohameds as close associates of President Irfaan Ali, the Vice President stated categorically that the incumbent Guyanese leader would be the PPP-Civic’s presidential candidate again in 2025. “President Ali will be our presidential candidate in 2025 and we will the elections with him again in 2025,” he said.
The Vice President sought to rubbish a section of the Reuters report that the Mohameds might have influenced Dr Ali’s election as President of Guyana and that he is somehow acting in favour of those two businessman.
Mr Jagdeo indicated that he helped to groom Dr Ali, the PPP’s Finance Secretary, through a number of government project-related appointments in addition to having come from a family with a long history of struggle with late PPP Founder Leader Dr Cheddi Jagan in the early days. “He earned his position as the presidential candidate of this party,” Mr Jagdeo said
The PPP General Secretary stated that “the Mohameds had no role to play in this elections” and Dr Ali was voted into office based on a strong campaign. Mr Jagdeo also denied the Mohameds were benefitting from their engagement with Exxon through the consortium because of links with the Guyana government. “Let me make it clear the government of Guyana had absolutely no influence ion Exxon to award any contract. In fact, we will not do it because we don’t want to be beholden… to any oil company, ” he said, adding that ExxonMobil had received several bids from Guyanese companies, several of them in partnership with others.
The Vice President indicated that government had arm-length approach to the issuance of oil production permits by hiring international specialist that review the permits. “I am in charge basically policy-wise of this sector. Not a single day did Irfaan Ali call me or the Mohameds could ever call me to say we’re part of some consortium with Exxon (so) accelerate something or do something. I’ll find it reprehensible and it never happened,” he said.
Mr Jagdeo recalled that the Guyana government had scrapped its relationship with a Washington DC-based lobbying firm, BGR Group, after information surfaced that the Mohameds were using the same firm. BGR had been hired to help convince the United States to again issue visas to them.