U.S. Ambassador defends no information sharing on Mohameds, PS Thomas with Guyana before sanctions

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 June 2024, 19:05 by Writer

United States (US) Ambassador to Guyana, Nicole Theriot on Friday said there was a “preponderance of evidence” against the Mohameds and Permanent Secretary Mae Thomas on whom sanctions have been imposed for alleged corruption and defended the decision not to have involved the Guyana government in the more than two and half years of investigations.

“They have to keep these investigations very close-hold because they can be compromised by anyone and so we tend to not share a lot of information until the investigation reaches a certain stage and so I regret that people feel they’ve been left in the dark but in the United States it would be exactly the same way.

If we are conducting an investigation against someone accused of corruption in the United States, we would not share that information until the investigation were at a stage where that was possible,” she told reporters.

Describing the probe as a “whole of U.S. government investigation” she said the U.S. had to be first convinced before imposing sanctions against the wealthy Guyanese businessmen and the public servant. “We do not do this lightly. This is something that we ensure that we have a preponderance of evidence before we are ready to levy these sanctions and we had that in this case against the three individuals who were sanctioned,” Ms Theriot said.

The U.S. Ambassador confirmed that “I strongly recommended” to the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. that “they provide as much of that information as possible” to assist the Guyana government in conducting its own probe. She said unclassified and “sensitive but unclassified” information could be shared. “I was very clear in my request that we want to be able to share as much as humanly as possible because we want to be very transparent. The Government of Guyana has been very transparent with us and we want to do the same in return,” she said.

Ms Theriot said criminal charges by the U.S. was “always possible” but she was unaware of any steps being taken in that regard. “We have a wonderful relationship with the Government of Guyana and we want them to be able to take that information and do with it what they need to do,” she added.

“We reserve these types of sanctions for gross levels of corruption and human rights abuses,” she told reporters.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accused Nazar and Azruddin Mohamed 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.

The U.S. 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.

Ms Thomas has been sent on leave and she has resigned from the Central Committee of the governing People’s Progressive Party.

The Bank of Guyana has already cancelled the Mohameds foreign exchange dealer’s licence.