Gov’t sends Permanent Secretary Mae Thomas on leave; asks US to hand over info about Mohameds

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 June 2024, 18:30 by Writer

Ms. Mae Toussaint Jr.-Thomas

The Guyana government 0n Tuesday sent Permanent Secretary Mae Thomas on leave, hours after the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) linked her to several alleged crimes with the Mohameds, regarded as super wealthy Guyanese businessmen.

“The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Ms. Mae Thomas has been sent on leave with immediate effect,” the Guyana government said in a statement. Ms Thomas was shifted to the Ministry of Labour more than a year ago after US law enforcers had questioned her, seized her phone and revoked her visa while she was transiting to China on a mission for the governing People’s Progressive Party of which she is a strong supporter.

The US accused Ms Thomas of, while being Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, using her position to offer benefits to Mohamed’s Enterprise and Azruddin, among others, in exchange for cash payments and high-value gifts. “Thomas misused her position to influence the award of official contract bids and the approval processes for weapons permits and passports on behalf of Mohamed’s Enterprise,” the Treasury Department said.

The Home Affairs Ministry’s new Guyana Fire Service Headquarters on Homestretch Avenue was built by a Mohamed’s-aligned construction firm. That facility was never formally commissioned by the Guyana government.

OFAC said it designated Thomas for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

In the wake of the freezing of Nazar and Azruddin Mohamed’s assets in the US because they allegedly evaded tax duty on gold transactions, the Guyana government would be asking the US to hand over all relevant inf0rmation. “The Ministry of Finance and relevant statutory agencies including the Guyana Revenue Authority, will be requesting additional information on the matters highlighted, with a view to aiding local law enforcement agencies,” the government said in a statement.

OFAC accused the Mohamed’s of allegedly evading US$50 million in duty taxes to the Guyana government by allegedly omitting more than 10,000 kilogrammes of gold from import and export declarations between 2019 and 2023.

Contacted on Tuesday, Nazar Mohamed said “no comment” about OFAC’s decision. He had previously denied those accusations.

The Treasury Department’s OFAC named the affected businesses as Mohamed’s Enterprise, Hadi’s World and Team Mohamed’s Racing Team.

About one year ago, the Mohameds had hired a Washington DC-headquartered firm to lobby the US State Department to consider their applications for new American visas. After Reuters news agency had reported that the Mohameds were on the US watchlist, they eventually pulled out of a multi-million dollar shorebase investment that US supermajor, ExxonMobil, had already contracted for its expanding operations in Guyana.

The Guyana government stressed that it takes very seriously the claims contained in the Treasury Department’s announcement and will
continue to engage relevant United States entities on these matters. “The Government of Guyana will continue to work with the United States government on all matters of mutual interest, including the respect for the rule of law and order.”

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall last week announced that the government would be amending its extradition laws to make it easier for the US and Guyana to extradite persons.