Guyana defends imposition of sanctions without evidence from U.S.; Ali says not compromised by connection to Mohameds

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2024, 21:32 by Denis Chabrol

-Nazar Mohamed resigns from neighbourhood council
President Irfaan Ali on Thursday said government decided to impose sanctions on Nazar Mohamed and his son, Azruddin as well their businesses without any evidence from the United States (U.S.), but relied on the announcement by the Treasury Department.

“Suppose, at the time of sanctions, there was a transaction in process, gold being sold to the gold board, how that is treated,” he told a news conference.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on June 11 froze the Mohameds assets and blocked almost all American businesses from doing business with them, triggering the Bank of Guyana’s revocation of their foreign exchange cambio licence.

Dr Ali stayed clear of specifically saying whether the Mohameds gold dealer’s licence and gold mining permits would also be pulled, but stressed that they could no longer do business. “Everything is suspended for that company. They can’t transact,” he said. “Everything is suspended. Let me make this clear. All transactions with the Gold Board,” he added. He said “all the banks were associated with the Mohameds.”

Relying on the independence of the Guyana Gold Board and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), he opted not state categorically whether the those authorisations have been pulled. But, he opted to say “we can’t operate without information” that the Ministry of Finance and the GRA have requested from the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about the Mohameds’ alleged US$50 million tax evasion on 10,000 kilogrammes of gold. “If there is a discrepancy between what was declared here and what was declared there which leads to the tax evasion issue, then that helps us to build a case and help GRA and the other agencies to take the necessary actions that are required,” he said. U.S. Ambassador Nicole Theriot last week said she has recommended to the agencies that unclassified information be provided to Guyana.

The President said “I don’t agree that we were left in the dark” by the U.S. as the two countries have been sharing intelligence on transnational crime “that we can’t have a public discourse on”. Ms Theriot said that even within the U.S., there are no disclosures until a probe is completed and action taken.

Dr Ali said Mr Mohamed has since resigned as an elected representative of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on the Eccles-Ramsburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council

No conflict of interest

The Guyanese leader dismissed suggestions that he had found himself in a conflict of interest because of his historically close relationship with the Mohameds. He admitted that, as presidential candidate in the 2020 general and regional elections and after, he had used a vehicle provided by the Mohameds due to an assessed security threat exposure at the time. Immediately after he was declared President and sworn into office, Dr Ali said he ceased using the Mohameds vehicle.

“I am not compromised and I cannot be compromised in any way, shape or form. Not me!” he said.

He recalled that, as a student of St Stanislaus College, on Fridays he and other students had attended mosque on the roof of the Mohameds building on Lombard Street and religious camps that had been supported by those businessmen.

Those connections, he insisted had nothing to do with the preservation of the rule of law. “I said the rule of law is the rule of law and the rule of law must apply equally to every citizen. N0 one is above the law,” he said.