Probe alleged gold smuggling, other transnational accusations against city businessmen

Last Updated on Friday, 18 August 2023, 17:12 by Denis Chabrol

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, AFC Chairman Catherine Hughes and former AFC General Secretary David Patterson

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Friday called for Guyanese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations that a major city business was allegedly involved in gold smuggling, money laundering and other transnational crimes.

Nazar ‘Shell’ Mohamed and his son Azruddin Mohamed are on record as denying such allegations and calling on the United Kingdom-headquartered Reuters news agency to provide evidence.

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan said a Commission of Inquiry would be important to clear the air for both the Mohameds and the Guyana government. “I note also what the Mohameds have said in response to Reuters but I honestly believe that there should be a major investigation into this matter that can be made up of some CARICOM officials and people of that sort that can give an independence that is required,” he said.

He could not say whether his party had received donations from the Mohameds but noted that their business had donated “certain items” to the Guyana Police Force “as good businessmen” during the coalition’s term in office. Mr Ramjattan said his party would have to check its receipt books to ascertain whether the Mohameds had given his party any cash. Both AFC Chairman Cathy Hughes and former General Secretary David Patterson said they were not aware of such donations.

He declined to say whose names were on a list of suspected smugglers of gold to the United States via direct flights. “That is a very, very sensitive document but we did what is called ‘pass it through the regular process’ to get at those people. Please you can’t do that. No comment,” said Mr Ramjattan, a former Minister of Public Security.

He said the gold had not been declared in Guyana to evade the payment of local taxes but had been declared on arrival in the United States. “When I came as Public Security Minister, we were aware that a humongous amount of gold was being declared at John F. Kennedy International Airport… and we heard about it in a certain report and we went and we found out and we found out because we had to tell the Americans ‘ you want from us all the information about cocaine dealers and gunrunners and all of that. We have been providing you. We need to know how many of these Guyanese are declaring gold at your John F. Kennedy International Airport,” he said.  At that time, Mr Ramjattan said that under the previous People’s Progressive Party administration at least US$2 billion worth of gold had been smuggled out of Guyana.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and President Irfaan Ali had said that the United States had not officially informed the Guyana government about the allegations against the Mohameds. If sanctions are imposed, Reuters news agency reports that ExxonMobil would be barred, according to American law, from doing business with a new shore-base that was being constructed in West Demerara.

Mr Jagdeo had said that government would take all necessary steps to protect Guyana’s national interests.

Attorney-at-Law James Bond and former Mayor of Georgetown Ubraj Narine had publicly vouched for the Mohameds’ integrity.