AFC leader in conflict of interest – Jagdeo; Hughes says not responsible for oil sector’s legal portfolio

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 July 2024, 22:32 by Writer

Mr Nigel Hughes.

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said Alliance For Change (AFC) leader, Nigel Hughes’ insistence on remaining ExxonMobil’s lawyer is unethical and amounts to double standards but Mr Hughes said he has not been responsible for the company’s portfolio for the past 24 years.

“What is it saying all along? That we have a duplicitous person who likes to talk about national interest, he likes to talk about diversity but it’s not diversity when it comes to his claim and his leadership in the AFC,” Mr Jagdeo told a news conference.

The AFC leader on Thursday evening confirmed to Demerara Waves Online News that he is not responsible for ExxonMobil’s portfolio, but instead his law firm’s partner, Attorney-at-Law Andrew Pollard has been doing so “since 2000…long before the oil find.”

Jagdeo, however, said Mr Hughes’ explanation raises additional questions about conflict of interest and ethics because that lawyer is a shareholder in the law firm of Hughes, Fields and Stoby (HFS). “Whether he manages the portfolio or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s his company and, therefore, his company works for Exxon so we should question how much shares he has in the company. He accused Mr Hughes of attempting to distract Guyanese from the core issue of his relationship and ownership with the law firm.

Mr Hughes had previously ruled out giving up his law practice and representation of ExxonMobil and other oil and gas sector clients while AFC Leader, as he could not allow the quality of his legal representation to be affected by his political office. Instead, he is on record as saying that the AFC would be setting up a separate committee to deal with and pronounce on the hydrocarbon sector. If he is elected President, Mr Hughes said he would have to leave HFS and that government would establish a Commission made up of experts to deal with the sector.

Mr Jagdeo, who is also Guyana’s Vice President, flayed Mr Hughes for putting personal and professional interests above those of Guyana’s. He noted that that well-known Attorney-at-Law had twice resigned from the AFC: first in 2013 after word surfaced that he had been associated with Sithe Global, a player in the stalled Amaila Falls Hydro-power project and again in 2016 during negotiations between government and ExxonMobil. Mr Jagdeo said HFS is mentioned as the local address in the Production Sharing Agreement and the bridging deed.

The PPP General Secretary did not elaborate but talked about an investigation and that first tier contractors and “Exxon has a lot to answer” because the lawyer would most likely not want to resign. “Nigel Hughes, knowing him, he will not want to resign. He is like that. He wants to collect the money and still be leader of the AFC. Conflict of interest will not bother him at all,” he said.