Thursday, January 22, 2009

Longing for the day of transparency and accountability

Kaieteur News Letter to the Editor, Thursday 22 January 2009

Longing for the day of transparency and accountability
January 22, 2009 | By knews |
Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
When the PNC asked that the forensic audit being conducted on Customs
officers be extended to senior Government officials, and the President
retaliated by instructing all MPs to declare their assets in two weeks or
face the courts, the President continued to expose himself as a vindictive
and petty leader who is not deserving of the high office of President of
I hold no brief for the PNCR, but since the PNCR is the main Parliamentary
Opposition, then it has a right and responsibility to make sensible and
appropriate calls. this call for a forensic audit of senior Government
officials - long overdue - should have been met with open arms and a
positive response, not retaliation.
In 1999, President Jagdeo told a gathering in Florida that when he returned
home, he was going to push for legislation to be passed to deal with corrupt
Customs officers. It meant that, at least since 1999, the President was
aware of corruption among Customs officers, yet it took him nine years (in
2008) to make a move.
And when he did, he employed an unusual means to deal with corruption: He
hired a foreign firm to execute polygraph tests of CANU officers. Nine
officers failed and were called into the President's office to explain why
they failed. Because he was not satisfied with their answers, he fired the
nine. No court case! No sense that justice was done and seen to be done in a
court of law!
Before the tests were even started, many questioned the exercise as a means
of rooting out corruption, given that the laws of the land, not polygraph
tests, should take precedence. But the President insisted that the tests
will be done, and he intended to have it extended to cover all other areas
of Government. Maybe if he had followed through on his pledge to have
polygraph testing done in all ministries, departments and agencies, we won't
have need for the PNCR's call and his now unwise retaliation.
Still, how does he explain threatening MPs with court action if they fail to
declare their assets, but decides that CANU officers undergo polygraph tests
for corruption when they should have faced the court? Is he the final
arbiter on who is guilty and who should be punished?
It is also ironic that when the PNCR called for senior Government officials
to be audited, the first person to respond, surprisingly, was PPP General
Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramotar, who said this was not necessary since the
Integrity Commission was there to determine the assets of such officials.
End of story? Not quite! Now we have the President jumping into the fray
with his own demand and accompanying deadline.
The problem I am having with the President's involvement here, besides
appearing retaliatory as usual, is whether he has not usurped the role of
the Integrity Commission when he issued a deadline for MPs to declare their
assets. Where in the Constitution does it state that the President can issue
such an order when the constitutionally established Integrity Commission is
there for such a purpose?
I will continue to write letters calling the President out on actions that
raise red flags, and demand that all concerned be aware and take appropriate
legal responses before the nation finds itself locked in a battle between
its constitutional rights and the President's abuse of his authority and
office. And I think this is where we are heading, given what I am
Meanwhile, on a related subject, I have no idea what has been the final
outcome of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee's deliberations and debate
on the Auditor-General's 2007 Report that had some glaring financial
irregularities, including one for (GY) $11M to the Home Affairs Ministry in
2003 for guns and ammunition, and which guns and ammunition were never
physically accounted for.
And the country still waits for the President's decision on what he will do
with the Auditor-General's report on the Fidelity probe, which has stern
recommendations from the AG that charges be brought against certain key
players involved in the scam. The President is giving MPs two weeks to
declare their assets, but he is taking all the time in the world to make a
decision on what to do with the Fidelity report gathering dust on his desk.
Spare us the hypocrisy, sir!
My final question relates to the role of the House Speaker in swearing in
MPs. Doesn't the House Speaker have the responsibility for ensuring all
incoming MPs be properly vetted before being sworn in? I don't know how the
process works, but logic dictates that, as part of the swearing in process,
all MPs had to submit to the House Speaker (or Clerk of the National
Assembly) some kind of document from the Integrity Commission showing their
assets were declared and they were, therefore, approved for swearing in.
I don't know if it will happen, but I really want to see the President order
the GRA, with strong support from law enforcement, to investigate all
businesses, to determine their sources of financing and tax status, and have
the same done on owners of new houses and cars. This notion of new
businesses, new houses and new cars are signs of socioeconomic development
that need to be dealt with openly or else there will always exist a belief
that corruption is being facilitated.
I also don't know when it will happen, but I pray for the day when we have a
transparent and accountable Government that respects the law and the people
of Guyana!
Emile Mervin

Jagdeo fails to hold Integrity Commission meeting

Kaieteur News news item, Thursday 22 January 2009

Jagdeo fails to hold Integrity Commission meeting
January 22, 2009 | By knews |
Filed Under News

Bharrat Jagdeo

The promised meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Integrity
Commission, slated for yesterday, did not come off as was promised by the

Pandit Rabindranauth Persaud, a commissioner on the Commission, did say that
the Office of the Integrity Commission did convey a message to the
President, asking him to signal his availability for the meeting.
He chose to make no further comment on matters of the commission, given that
in his oath he had sworn to secrecy.
The matter was referred to acting chairman of the body, Fazeel Ferouz, who
could not be reached because he was overseas.
The Chairman is Guyana's Anglican Bishop, Randolph George, but he has not
been acting in that capacity for close to three years.
The other member is Secretary of the Guyana Council of Churches, Nigel
On Monday last, President Jagdeo had said, "On Wednesday (yesterday), I am
meeting with them (Integrity Commission), and I will say to them that within
two weeks I expect a list of all the Members of Parliament, that their names
be published in the newspaper."
He was referring to the MPs who did not declare their assets and income to
the commission.
However, according to the Integrity Commission Act of Guyana, "In the
exercise and discharge of its functions, the Commission shall not be subject
to the direction or control of any other persons or authority."
The same legislation does stipulate, however, that "Where a person who is
required to do so fails to file a declaration in accordance with this Act,
or to furnish particulars under section 18, the Commission or the President,
as the case may be, shall publish the fact in the Gazette and in a daily
Under the piece of legislation, there is a specific list of office holders
who are required to declare assets to the Commission, and the Commissioners
declare their assets to the President.
Jagdeo, on Monday last, had also said that apart from having the names of
the defaulters published, they would be subject to the penalties under the
According to the Act, the penalty for failing to comply is: "a fine of
$25,000 and imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more
than one year; and where the offence involves the non-disclosure by the
declarant of property which should have been disclosed in the declaration,
the magistrate convicting the person shall order the person to make full
disclosure of the property within a given time; and on failure to comply
with the order of the magistrate within the given time, the said offence
shall be deemed to be a continuing offence, and the person shall be liable
to a further fine of $10,000 for each day on which the offence continues."
Members of Parliament and other senior officials, who are required by law to
declare their assets to the Integrity Commission, now have two weeks to do
so or face the court, according to Jagdeo.
The President was responding to a recent call by the People's National
Congress to have the forensic audit of Customs officers extended to senior
Government officials.
The President pointed out that such a call was unnecessary, given that there
was an Integrity Commission in place for the same reason.
The President emphasised that the ultimatum was not limited to the
Opposition, in that members of the Government side of the House who default
will share the same fate.
On Friday last, the PNCR issued a statement calling for the forensic audit
to include senior Government officials and corrupt business people.
According to the party, it has noted that the Auditor-General has confirmed
that a forensic audit into the assets of employees of the Customs and Trade
Administration (CTA) has been authorised, and most Guyanese would regard
this as an important step in the exercise of rooting out corruption from
that department.
"However, the PNCR believes that this tool would be useful in tracking down
the now endemic corruption in all areas of the society."
It added that the Auditor-General and the Jagdeo Administration should call
upon those persons and entities, including those who have acquired assets
which bear no relationship to their incomes and earnings, to submit to
similar forensic audits.
The warning from Jagdeo as it relates to the MPs having two weeks to declare
income and assets to the Integrity Commission drew a hostile response from
the Alliance For Change, which stated that the President was overstepping
his boundary.

According to a release that was issued by the party, the Leader of the AFC,
Raphael Trotman, strongly condemned the threat of prosecution issued by
President Jagdeo when he issued an ultimatum to MPs to declare their assets
within two weeks, or face prosecution.
The statement, according to Trotman, has had a chilling effect and signals
that the Executive branch of Government has now decided to impose its will
on the Legislative branch, and also to threaten members of that branch.
"Nowhere in the free world could the head of the Executive branch issue
ultimatums, threaten, and initiate criminal action against members of the
Legislature...It is obvious that Jagdeo does not understand the sacred
concepts of the rule of law and separation of powers, and needs to be
enlightened accordingly, or has decided not to pay them any mind...
"The AFC states unapologetically that there is now the clear and
unmistakable presence of a dictatorship in Guyana."
The party emphasised that, by Act of Parliament, the Integrity Commission
was established to oversee the acquisition of assets by public officials,
and if there is a failure to comply, there are certain prescribed actions
that the Commission may take without the instruction having to come from the
President of Guyana.
Additionally, Jagdeo has to be reminded that the question of whether indeed
the Integrity Commission is even properly constituted is a matter engaging
the attention of the High Court.
The People's National Congress Reform had challenged the constitutionality
of the Integrity Commission, but the matter is still before the courts.
According to the Act, persons required to declared assets include: The
President of Guyana, The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers
including Ministers of State,
Secretary to the Cabinet, Parliamentary Secretaries, Members of the National
Assembly, members of the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs,
members of the Regional Democratic Councils, Clerk of the National Assembly,
Attorney-General (if not a Member of the Cabinet), Head of the Presidential
Secretariat, Director of Protocol, Office of the President; Chief of
Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Permanent Secretaries and Deputy
Permanent Secretaries, Ombudsman, Director of Public Prosecutions, Deputy
Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor-General, Deputy
Solicitor-General, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Deputy Chief Parliamentary
Counsel. Auditor-General, Deputy Auditor-General, Secretary to the Treasury,
Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Commissioner of Police, Deputy
Commissioner of Police, Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force;
Director-General, Guyana National Service; Commandant, Guyana People's
Militia; Members, Elections Commission; Members, Judicial Service
Commission; Members, Public Service Commission; Members, Police Service
Commission; Members, Teaching Service Commission; Members, Public Service
Appellate Tribunal; Police Complaints Authority, Heads of Diplomatic
Missions of Guyana accredited to any other country or any international
organization, Governor, Deputy Governor and Heads of Divisions of the Bank
of Guyana, Managing Directors and Managers of state-owned or controlled
banks, Heads of all Government Departments, Commissioner of Lands and
Surveys, Deputy Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, Commissioner of Geology
and Mines, Deputy Commissioner of Geology and Mines Commissioner of Forests,
Deputy Commissioner of Forests, Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Deputy
Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Comptroller of Customs and Excise
Deputy Comptroller of Customs and Excise, Judges of the Supreme Court,
Presidential Advisors, Magistrates, Commissioner of Title, Registrar of the
Supreme Court, Registrar of Deeds, State Solicitor, Official Receiver and
Public Trustee, Chief Planning Officer,
Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, and Heads of
Departments, Public Corporations Secretariat, Chairmen, Managing Directors,
Chief Executive Officers, General Managers and Heads of Departments of all
public corporations, and other bodies corporate and agencies (including
companies and bodies established by or under any statute) owned by the
State, or in which the controlling interest is vested in the State or in any
agency on behalf of the State, Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, and Deans of
Faculties of the University of Guyana, Registrar-General, Chief Elections
Officer and Commissioner of Registration, Mayors and Deputy Mayors and Town
Clerks, as well as Members of the Integrity Commission, among others.

Auditor-General's authority to undertake "forensic" audit of Customs officials questionable

Kaieteur News Letter to the Editor, Thursday 22 January 2009

Auditor-General's authority to undertake "forensic" audit of Customs
officials questionable
January 22, 2009 | By knews |
Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
In this letter, I will seek to conflate two issues involving the President
and the Auditor-General (ag.), Mr. Deodat Sharma, which, taken together,
convinces me that neither of them understands key provisions of the
Constitution or the Audit Act 2004, hardly a trivial issue.
My conclusion is based firstly on a report in the SN of January 13, 2009
under the caption, "Customs workers facing forensic audit as bribery probe
widens", in which Mr. Sharma is quoted as saying that the process of a
forensic audit into the assets of employees at the Customs and Trade
Administration (CTA) needs to be thorough since, "President Bharrat Jagdeo
would expect nothing less". The second is also an article in the same
newspaper of January 20, 2009, in which, questioned about the commissioning
of a report into the related Customs bribery probe, President Jagdeo is
reported as saying that this particular report was "a bit different than the
routine annual audit," while Mr. Sharma said it was "unlike regular reports
from his Office."
Regarding the first issue, both the President and Mr. Sharma need to be
reminded that the Constitution makes the Audit Office "not subject to the
control or direction of any person or authority." It goes without saying
that that includes the President.
The Audit Act 2004 provides for two types of audit - financial and
compliance audits, and performance and value-for-money audits {under Section
24 (1)} while Section 24 (2) provides the scope of work and broad
methodology for the two types. Section 25 of the Act sets a deadline of
September 30 for submission of the Auditor-General's report on the
consolidated financial statements and accounts of budget agencies, while
Section 26 provides that "During the year, the Auditor General may choose to
conduct special audits, and at his discretion prepare special reports when
such audits are completed."
Where the Auditor-General and the President fall into error, with the
President saying it was a debating point, is the scope of Section 28, which
provides as follows: "The Auditor General shall (note, not may), in
accordance with article 223 of the Constitution, submit his reports to the
Speaker of the National Assembly, who shall cause them to be laid before the
Assembly." That section refers to all reports; and "whether it goes through
the Speaker or Minister of Finance," as the President said, is more than
semantics or a procedural issue. It is the result of a constitutional
amendment designed to strengthen the independence of the Audit Office, so
that he reports not to the Executive but to the National Assembly. Sadly,
neither President Jagdeo nor Mr. Sharma seems to appreciate the distinction.
To any reasonable person, it must be clear that, together, the Constitution
and the Audit Act make the issuing of instructions by the President to the
Auditor General to undertake an investigation into the Fidelity fraud
allegations, to carry out so-called forensic audits of the assets of the
employees of the CTA and the submission of reports by the AG to the
President, unconstitutional and unlawful.
After the sterling work done by his predecessor, Mr. Anand Goolsarran FCCA,
MBA, Mr. Sharma is allowing President Jagdeo to bring the Audit Office into
disrepute, and it only takes a legal action by any officer called upon to
submit to Mr. Sharma's "forensic audit" to have the whole process thrown
out. In no country but Guyana would the head of the State Audit, with
responsibility to audit often complex transactions in excess of two hundred
billion dollars, not hold a professional accounting qualification. One of
the reasons for such a requirement is that the holder is subject to a
professional code of conduct regulating the quality of his work and the
integrity and independence he displays. Unfettered by such professional
obligations, Mr. Sharma can therefore be as cavalier as he wants to be,
unexposed to professional disciplinary sanction, assured of political
It is not that Mr. Sharma has time on his hand, or no work to do. In a
review of the Report of the Auditor General on the public accounts for the
year 2006, carried in SN Business Pages of August 24, 31 and September 7,
2008, I pointed out some glaring weaknesses - errors of omission and
commission of a professional nature in the work of his Office. Perhaps a few
examples drawn from those columns would suffice. The full articles are
available on the SN website, or at
1. That the report did not mention the failure by the Privatisation
Unit/NICIL to account for hundreds of millions of dollars, a fundamental
breach of the constitution that ranks and rankles with the infamous Lotto
2. $6.513 billion advanced from the Dependants Pension Fund Deposit Fund
at December 31, 2006 not being substantiated while the old Consolidated Fund
bank account NO 400 had not been reconciled since 1988;
3. The failure by the Audit Office to report on the financial statements
of entities in which the Government has a controlling interest;
4. Non-reporting of the hundreds of millions of Flood funds, which Mr.
Sharma had promised more than three years ago;
5. No report on concessions granted under the Investment Act, 2004,
including the illegal concessions granted to Queens Atlantic Investment
Inc., the saga of 2008;
6. No audit report on World Cup Cricket, even as another cricket spending
spree is planned next year.
The Guyanese public is accustomed to being misled by fancy-sounding but
uninformed statements by public officials, some of which confuse even
lawyers of the main opposition parties. The statement about forensic audit
falls in that category, when looked at against the quality of work referred
to above, and the persistent failure by the Audit Office to carry out its
mandate. Mr. Sharma, it seems, prefers to dabble in matters improperly
referred to him by the President, while neglecting his constitutional and
statutory responsibilities, such as his report for 2007 on the public
accounts, already overdue by several months, and any value-for-money audits.
The Minister of Finance is a former Deputy Auditor-General who served under
Mr. Goolsarran, and the Government must therefore be aware of the several
professional and personnel limitations of the Audit Office and those who
control it. But since the Government transacts business involving billions
of dollars, often outside the norms of proper accounting, the Constitution
and the Financial Management and Audit Act, it is unlikely that it would
like strong and independent oversight of such spending. So, really, it is
convenient to the Government to have someone like Mr. Sharma heading the
Audit Office. That convenience is greater by having the wife of the Senior
Minister of Finance employed as the only professionally qualified accountant
in the Audit Office. By definition, principle and practice, she is not
independent, and it is absolutely incompatible for her to be in the Audit
Office while her husband is the Minister of Finance.
To allow such serious farce in the Audit Office, in my view, shows contempt
for the people of our bleeding country. All the talk of forensic audit is
meaningless. On top of all of this, the Parliamentary oversight body, the
Public Accounts Committee, seems completely out of its depth. Do Guyanese
really deserve this?
I will deal with the President's uninformed and misguided call for "MP's to
declare assets within two weeks or face the courts" in a later
Chris Ram

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The President and PNCR Leader misled the nation for 14 years on need for Local Govt. reforms

The President and PNCR Leader misled the nation for 14 years on need for Local Govt. reforms
January 19, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,

In his letter, “Local Government is the most useful process at this point in time,” (SN January 16), Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green mentioned my name as one of the people who recently wrote on the revived shared governance issue.

While I welcome his input to the discussion and debate, I think the most ardent proponents of shared governance (namely the PNCR), who are likely to benefit more from this concept, are more focused on the Central or Executive Government level, rather than on the Local Government level.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Opposition and PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin who recently opined that the shared governance concept should be a top-down and not a bottom-up process; meaning shared governance should come from the Central Government (CG) and devolve to the Local Government (LG) level, or that the power of change should come from the politicians, and not the people. And why should we expect differently, given the thinking of both the PPP and PNCR?

Both the PPP and PNCR know that under the present constitution and system of government, whichever party controls the CG automatically controls the LG. In fact, in 1992, the PPP inherited a system of government and constitution from the PNCR that, despite minimal constitutional amendments in 1999, allowed for the continued familial working relationship between Central and Local Government systems, in which the CG dictates to the LGs.

And if memory serves me well, it was only after Green’s GGG won the Georgetown mayoralty that an accelerated push for LG reforms took off. However, since the PPP (like its predecessor) is all about absolute control of all branches, institutions and agencies of government, it never seemed inclined to tinker with or tamper too much with the system and lose the privilege and chance of being in absolute control.

The PNC, on the other hand, knowing the value of the Central-Local Governments working relationship, in event it regains power solely or through shared governance, also never appeared too adamant about genuine, extensive LG reforms, except maybe where such reforms could help lead it to increased political leverage at the highest level of government. So all the talk about LG reforms to-date is just that: talk!

Second, I want to ask whether Mr. Green ever thought that while the delaying of LG elections may have appeared to be about intractable issues between the PPP and PNCR, the delay may also have been used to prevent him from facing citywide mayoral elections for the past 14 years, so he won’t continue to score upset wins that could set him up for bigger political game?

Everyone needs to know that since the CG is responsible for staging constitutionally due elections, Mr. Green has been serving at the pleasure of the same CG that repeatedly sought to score cheap political points by publicly ridiculing his stewardship of the city. Did the PPP and PNCR really conspire to freeze his political ambitions within the boundaries of the mayoralty and also cause him to appear a failure unfit for higher office?

Some observers have

adverted to Mr. Green’s formation of the GGG and his successful run for Mayor of Georgetown, that shocked both the PPP and PNCR, and, without question, cracked the seemingly invincible shell in which the PPP and PNCR long ensconced themselves as the only two parties of significance and relevance that could not be beaten by a third political party!

So, since he has to know the thinking of both the PPP and PNCR when it comes to losing power, then by becoming Georgetown Mayor via a party he formed, he may have set in motion a reaction process that included the PNCR teaming up with the PPP, as a matter of political convenience and survival, to find a way to shut him (as they would anyone, for that matter) out of contention!

Third, while Mr. Green may have been, knowingly or unknowingly, a proverbial thorn in the side of the PPP, (as well as the PNCR until his decision last year to return to the party), one can’t help asking if it was his dubious distinction of being the GGG Mayor of Georgetown and a re-instated PNCR member that forced the PPP regime to bypass the PNCR on LG reforms and use its Parliamentary majority to empower its LG Minister to invite mayors and chairmen of Local Governments/Municipalities (without consultation of Parliamentary parties?) to state when they want to have elections held. Did the PPP feel betrayed by the PNCR on Mr. Green’s re-entry into the PNCR?

This recent autocratic move by the PPP regime, meanwhile, certainly runs counter to the spirit of the constitution that stipulates LG elections be held at fixed times, and the net effect here is that there have been no LG reforms, yet, ironically, there will be LG elections on a municipal-by-municipal basis with Local Governments/Municipalities taking their cue from the LG Minister and not the constitution.

Now, this is dangerous territory to wade into, because while the constitution has fixed boundaries, the LG Minister, who appears to have usurped the place of the constitution, can easily flex to meet the changing politically partisan demands of the ruling party based on decisions by his government’s Parliamentary majority.

So herein lays the big picture no-brainer question of the day: Do Guyanese believe there is a need for LG reforms before LG Elections can be held? The fact the LG Minister can now okay LG elections without the touted reforms surely exposes the hypocrisy of our leaders in misleading us for the last 14 years about the importance of LG reforms.

Fourth, while I have already stated my belief that any shared governance experiment should evolve from the people up to the politicians (and not devolve from the politicians down to the people), I never stated with any degree of specificity the types of reforms I think are needed for Local Governments/Municipalities to function effectively and efficiently. However, I certainly don’t like the idea of the Local Government Ministry dictating and interfering in the affairs of Local Governments/Municipalities, or inviting mayors and chairmen to say when they want elections held.

What the PPP regime just did in Parliament is an absolute abuse of power. Let the people, not the politicians, determine their community affairs within the confines of the constitution governing Local Government rules and regulations.

To Mr. Green, while it is true that the ruling PPP and the main opposition PNCR did agree to the need for LG reforms, and have been demonstrably unable or unwilling to effect those reforms for over a decade, I strongly doubt whether the two parties share your view that LG reforms are the most fundamental prerequisite to shared governance.

And since you’ve enjoined the discussion, sir, could you apprise us of the facts (as you know them) on the aborted 1985 shared governance talks between the Burnham PNC and Jagan PPP?

Emile Mervin

Sunday, January 18, 2009

There is already an Integrity Commission in place - Donald Ramotar

Kaieteur News news item, Sunday 18 January 2009

There is already an Integrity Commission in place - Donald Ramotar
January 18, 2009 | By knews |

...but AFC queries authenticity of the reports submitted

General Secretary of the People's Progressive Party, Donald Ramotar, in
responding to a call by the People's National Congress Reform to have a
forensic audit conducted into Government officials, has said that there is
already an Integrity Commission in place to deal with such matters implied
by the PNCR.
He noted that this commission calls for all Members of Parliament of declare
their assets.
Alliance for Change Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, when contacted for a
comment insisted that there must be forensic audits from the President,
Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Advisors, Regional Chairmen right down the
line of Government officials. He also sought to debunk Ramotar's comment
that the Integrity Commission was already doing so.

PPP/C General Secretary Donald Ramotar
"Absolutely not!" said Ramjattan, who pointed out that there are only
declarations made to that Commission.
He added also that the declarations may very well be highly inaccurate and
deceptive, "How do we know that it is not a bundle of lies?"
According to Ramjattan, the declarations must suffer scrutiny too. Some
public officials also ignore the Integrity Commission with impunity.
"Forensic audits of what these officials declare must be carried
out...especially those of the upper echelons of Government."
Ramjattan said that the conduct of Government officials must be exemplary.
"They must live the examined life especially in their financial
affairs...The investigation ought to include why some, like Minister Robert
Persaud, would want to sell his house to go and live in state property free
of charge," he argued.
"Let them also go through polygraph tests when the circumstance so demands."
Vision Guyana Chairman, Peter Ramsaroop, who has been a staunch advocate
against government corruption, said that he supports the call for expanding
the forensic audit to government officials.
"Too many of them have gained significant assets that are not accounted
The PNCR on Friday issued a statement calling for the forensic audit to
include senior Government officials and corrupt business people.
According to the party, it has noted that the Auditor-General has confirmed
that a forensic audit into the assets of employees of the Customs and Trade
Administration (CTA) has been authorised, and most Guyanese would regard
this as an important step in the exercise in rooting out corruption from
that department.
"However, the PNCR believes that this tool would be useful in tracking down
the now endemic corruption in all areas of the society."
It added that the Auditor-General and the Jagdeo Administration should call
upon those persons and entities, including those who have acquired assets
which bare no relationship to their incomes and earnings, to submit to
similar forensic audits.
Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo, recently called for investigations
into the assets of corrupt Customs officers.
He said that if people were not able to properly account "for their assets,
then they have a lot to answer for".
The President was insistent that the assets analysis component of the
investigation be fulfilled.
He pointed to the fact that if the capability was not available locally, the
audit office should seek external assistance and Government would foot the
Several Customs officers and other employees of the Guyana Revenue Authority
were sent on administrative leave early last year. Five of the employees who
were sent on leave were dismissed during the investigations ordered by
President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Drug accused Morgan says he was trading currency

Drug accused Morgan says he was trading currency

Stabroek News, January 18, 2009

Family made over 60 trips to US with large sums

Peter Morgan, who is facing narcotics charges in the US, says the only reason he and his relatives travelled with large sums of foreign currency was because he benefited from favourable exchange rates using Guyana dollars to purchase forex which was then used to pay overseas suppliers of his company, Morgan Auto Sales.
Peter Morgan

Peter Morgan

Morgan plans to use the testimonies of the owners and persons associated with his overseas suppliers to show that he was involved in legitimate business which had nothing to do with narcotics.

In a memorandum filed through his lawyer, Alan Futerfas, Morgan said that for almost 20 years he used market fluctuations to trade for profit in currency, as the unusual economic conditions in Guyana forced most businessmen in this country to pay vendors in other currency. He claimed that his business, which was established in 1991, utilised the New York bank account of Sabena Manufacturing established by his father, James Morgan at the JP Morgan Chase Bank way back in 1985. Since the establishment of that bank account Morgan and his relatives made over 60 trips to the US carrying large sums of US and Canadian dollars along with British pounds totalling millions of dollars, all of which were declared.

The JP Morgan Chase Bank account has since been closed by US authorities and the proceeds given to the state as it was the same bank account that Morgan’s sister Sabrina Budhram and her husband, Arnold, admitted to using to launder money for drug accused, Roger Khan and others. The account was in the name of Morgan’s father, who is currently serving time in the United Kingdom for a drug offence. According to the prosecution in the Budhram matter, the account was used to launder money from drug pushers in Guyana. The Budhrams have pleaded guilty to certain aspects of money laundering and while Arnold has been sentenced to three years’ probation his wife is still awaiting sentencing.

The filing of the memorandum, which is in support of Morgan’s pre-trial motions, indicates that the plea-bargain negotiation he was in with the prosecution has failed. In the memorandum, Morgan is seeking to have depositions taken from persons outside the US accepted. He also wants an order precluding the use of intercepted telephone conversations from a particular telephone number on which he is overheard speaking. Morgan is also seeking an order preventing the government from introducing certain “other crimes” evidence it may seek to offer and for the government to disclose to the defence the name of each expert it intends to call at the trial and provide a summary of his/her anticipated testimony.

The 42-year-old Morgan is facing a three-count indictment which accuses him of conspiring to import, possess and distribute five kilogrammes of cocaine between December 2001 and August 2003. He was nabbed in March of 2007 in Trinidad where his lawyers said he had gone to visit relatives. However, he was in transit at that country’s airport when he was picked up by Trinidadian and US authorities. He was subsequently extradited on August 23, 2007 from Trinidad where he was represented by attorney-at-law Chris Mancini. His extradition came after he withdrew the last-ditch appeal he had made in the Port of Spain Appellate Court challenging it.

Morgan had initially attempted to have the extradition order made by Trinidad Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls on April 30, 2007, reversed. His lawyers had appealed but this was dismissed in the High Court and then a new appeal was filed.

‘Buying and selling’

According to Morgan, his business, which he has built into a profitable enterprise, involves buying, importing and selling previously owned and/or reconditioned automobiles, truck, machinery, automotive parts and other products. He said prior to his arrest he resided with his former wife and three children aged 14, 15 and 17 in Guyana. The former wife now helps to run their business as he sits in jail.

To develop his business, the man said, he travelled extensively to find vendors and create business relationships and while customers were located in Guyana and paid in Guyana currency his vendors are located in Singapore, England, Japan and China. It was noted that Guyana currency is not accepted outside Guyana and as such he used US, British and Canadian currency when conducting business outside Guyana.

He claimed that while Agent Todd Nickerson, who investigated his sister’s matter, reviewed the Chase bank account he failed to state that the account records showed that it was used largely to pay vendors around the world as records would show deposits into account and then wires out to businesses in other countries.

Foreign witnesses

Meanwhile, the defence is seeking an order to use the depositions of nine witnesses all of whom are unavailable because they reside outside the US, are not subject to the district court’s subpoena power and will not travel to the US to testify.

The first witness the defence plans to use is a man who owns a motor works company in Derbyshire, England, which buys used and reconditioned Bedford army trucks at government auctions. He is expected to testify from his personal knowledge about his business relationship with Morgan, which began in the early 1990s. Morgan reportedly purchased large numbers of Bedford trucks from that company which he then imported and sold in Guyana. He met the owner of the company in England two or three times a year to select the vehicles he purchased and the owner is expected to testify about the payment methods Morgan employed.

The second witness is expected to testify that he had first-hand knowledge about his business relationship with Morgan for eight years and that he purchased quantities of new and used spare parts and machines which he imported and sold in Guyana. The memorandum did not say if this witness has owned a business or how the two were business partners.

The third and fourth witnesses are Morgan’s mother and his stepfather; his mother has lived in England for the past 26 years. His stepfather worked in the automobile business as a salesman for his entire career and they both helped Morgan pay his car, truck and auto parts’ vendors in England. They are expected to testify about the currency exchange methods Morgan used to pay his vendors. They cannot travel because his mother is ill and undergoing treatment.

Another witness set to testify is an employee of a British company that sold excavators and other earth-moving equipment to Morgan over the years. He would testify about his business relationship with Morgan and the manner in which his company received payment. The sixth witness is from the same company and he is said to be a senior member of that company. He will testify about the close relationship the company had with Morgan and his extensive experience trading and during business in Guyana. He is ill and cannot travel.

Two other witnesses come from Guyana and the first is an employee of Morgan’s company who is said to know all aspects of the business including the import and sales of the vehicles sold and payment to foreign vendors. He will testify about his trips to the US to exchange money which was properly declared. He is 60 and still works with the company. The third Guyanese witness is a brother of Morgan and he will testify about the creation of the company and the volume of business. He also has detailed first-hand knowledge about Guyanese currency and exchange business and possesses significant evidence relative to the credibility of his ex-wife, who the defence believes would be used as a government witness at the trial.

The final witness is a 53-year-old Trinidadian woman who answered an advertisement in a Trinidadian newspaper for a babysitting position in Guyana. The advertisement was placed in the papers by a couple and according to the defence it was the beginning of “a string of lies and misdeeds committed against her” by the couple. Her evidence is expected to contradict the testimony of the couple. They have already testified at prior trials. The woman will also testify about the source of the man’s supply of drugs which the defence says goes to the heart of the government’s case against Morgan.

To support the bid for an order to take the testimonies from the witnesses in their respective countries, the defence cited the ruling of Judge Dora Irizarry, who has permitted the lawyers of Roger Khan to take the testimonies of witnesses here in Guyana.

‘Target phone’

The memorandum made mention of a May 8, 2003 application made by Nickerson to Judge Jack Weinstein for a court order authorizing the interception of wire communications over the telephone. In support of the application, the agent indicated that there was probable cause that certain designated offences “have been committed, are being committed, and will continue to be committed” by the “subject individuals” including Morgan on the target phone. It was stated that the designated offences were the importation, distribution and possession of cocaine and conspiracy to do the same.

According to Morgan’s lawyer, Nickerson relied on four confidential informants to support probable cause. One informant was arrested on August 2002 at JFK upon arrival from Guyana in possession of more than 12 kilogrammes of cocaine. After admitting to having previously smuggled cocaine into the country the informant claimed that Sabrina and Arnold Budhram were laundering the narcotics proceeds and he gave the authorities the addresses of the couple’s home. The informant reportedly was an individual who made numerous narcotics smuggling trips from Guyana to the US.

The second informant was arrested in 2002 for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and this informant claimed to have taken the proceeds of four prior cocaine shipments to Sabrina Budhram between 2001 and 2002. The informant also supplied the names of three other individuals.

The third informant was arrested in 2001 and told law enforcement officers of being involved in a drug organisation with another of Morgan’s relatives who transported drug proceeds from the US to Guyana.

And the fourth informant was arrested at JFK after arriving from Guyana with some six kilogrammes of cocaine and according to Nickerson’s affidavit, a well-known Guyanese, whose name was listed, was to pick the informant up at the airport. It was claimed that the informant had made a successful trip in May of 2002 for that person. The Guyanese, who operates a popular nightspot in Georgetown, was arrested several times by the local police during the many raids on properties belonging to Roger Khan.

Drugs were reportedly found on his property by the police on one occasion and he was charged but the matter later dismissed. The informant claimed to have seen shoe boxes of money, allegedly drug proceeds, at that person’s house. The telephone number and address provided by the informant belonged to that Guyanese.

Nickerson’s affidavit had stated that five to ten minutes before a vehicle would arrive at the target residence, the front light would turn on and then turn off once the vehicle departed. He said that a brother of Morgan flew from JFK to Guyana in August of 2002 and that an outbound search of his luggage turned up US$104,000. He had presented a completed currency reporting form filed for the amount and had said the money belonged to two companies in Guyana: Morgan Auto Sales and Sabena Manufacturing, the latter being a company that imported raw materials for clothing manufacturing which had been owned by the family for 25 years.

According to Morgan’s lawyers, the affidavit also stated that the brother made some 70 trips over a 16-year span between 1986 and 2002 in which he declared money for Sabena Manufacturing. The affidavit also stated that more than 15 different individuals had made trips declaring money on behalf of Sabena over those 16 years and that in excess of US$10 million had been declared on behalf of the company over a 10-year period. The declarations were prepared by travellers who handed them in at the time of their arrival in the US.

The lawyers said Peter Morgan is only mentioned in a section of the affidavit called “pen register, trap and trace and phone toll analysis on subject telephone.” The sections stated that Morgan owns his company and is the brother of Sabrina and that he had taken 60 flights to or from JFK and declared a total of US$100,000 in the name of his company or Sabena. The affidavit said that numerous calls were placed and received between Morgan Auto Sales and the target telephone, 10 of which were over a three-week period from April 3 to April 25, 2003.

However, the lawyers said, the agent did not reveal facts that would have substantially altered the judge’s assessment of probable cause. They said the nature of the two companies were omitted from the affidavit and the only mention of “a prosperous business” owned and run by Morgan appears in the affidavit where the agent states that Morgan’s brother was interviewed by police enforcement and stated he was transporting money belonging to Morgan Auto Sales.

The lawyers feel that the agent could have readily learned that Peter Morgan was involved in the currency exchange business and automotive business for over 15 years.

They said the agent “must have thought it odd” that Morgan was declaring an average of US$625,000 per year, year after year, from 1986 to 2002 if he was doing something illegal.

They said one could only suggest criminality regarding the Sabena account if one ignored that from 1986 forward, steady sums of currency of about US$625,000 per year were declared and brought into the US and deposited at a New York bank.

According to one of the charges Morgan faces, some time between October 1, 2001 and August 31, 2003, Morgan knowingly and intentionally conspired with David Narine, Susan Narine, Hung-Fung Mar and other persons unknown, to traffic in cocaine by importation. The second charge alleges that some time between December 1, 2001 and August 31, 2003, he trafficked in cocaine by importation. He faces jail terms of ten years to life imprisonment if convicted.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

When it comes to economic freedom globally, Guyana is even lower than Haiti

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Jan. 14, 2009: When it comes to
economic freedom globally, Guyana is even lower than Haiti, the country
deemed the poorest in the world.

According to the latest Index of Economic Freedom World Rankings, a
compilation of economic freedom globally by the Wall Street Journal and
the Heritage Foundation, Guyana is at 155 on the overall list, lower
than Haiti at 147. Overall, it scored 48.4 on the economic freedom
scale, meaning its freedom is repressed.

This makes it the worst CARICOM country for economic freedom in several
areas, including business, trade, government size, investment, property
rights, corruption and labor.

As analysts summarized in the report: `Guyana does not rank strongly in
any category of economic freedom and is slightly above the world average
only in labor freedom. Although macroeconomic and financial-sector
stability has been maintained, Guyana's average economic growth over the
past five years was only about 1 percent.`

The size of government was also slammed, with researchers saying
government's size is the biggest barrier to development since
expenditures exceed half of GDP.

Additionally, `Significant restrictions on foreign investment have been
addressed only marginally, and these restrictions, combined with an
inefficient bureaucracy, substantially limit investment and business
freedom,` the report added.

Analysts found that the overall freedom to conduct a business is
restricted by Guyana's regulatory environment since starting a business
takes an average of 40 days, which is roughly equal to the world average
of 38 days.

Further, obtaining a business license requires less than the world
average of 18 procedures while closing a business can be lengthy and costly.

The foreign investment approval process was found to be burdensome and
non-transparent, since according to the report, government still screens
most investments, and the relevant ministries have significant
discretion in issuing licenses and approvals.

he banking system was also dubbed as `inefficient,` since the percentage
of loans that are considered non-performing is relatively high at 14
percent, down from 25 percent during the mid-1990s.

Six commercial banks operate in Guyana, and the two largest are

High inflation, averaging 10.4 percent between 2005 and 2007, did not
help Guyana`s overall standings, since analysts claimed the Guyana
government still influences prices through the regulation of state-owned
utilities and enterprises. Ten points were deducted from Guyana's
monetary freedom score to adjust for measures that distort domestic prices.

There was also found to be burdensome standards and regulations when it
comes to the import and export business while researchers found
inefficient customs administration, inadequate infrastructure, and
corruption, factors of which all add to the cost of trade.

And corruption is perceived as widespread, and at every level of law
enforcement and government.

This widespread corruption perception undermines poverty-reduction
efforts by international aid donors and discourages potential foreign
investors, analysts said.

Guyana ranks 123rd out of 179 countries in Transparency International's
Corruption Perceptions Index for 2007. There is extensive corruption at
every level of law enforcement and government. Widespread corruption
undermines poverty-reduction efforts by international aid donors and
discourages potential foreign investors.

The country`s high tax rate of 33.3 percent for high income earners, and
35 percent for top corporations, also did not help its rank and neither
did its high government expenditures, including consumption and transfer

Researchers found poor management of public expenditures and constantly
increasing social spending which contribute to persistent fiscal
deficits. In the most recent year, government spending equaled 56.8
percent of GDP.

And Guyana's judicial system was criticized as often slow and
inefficient and according to researchers, `is also subject to corruption.`

`Law enforcement officials and prominent lawyers question the
independence of the judiciary and accuse the government of intervening
in some cases. A shortage of trained court personnel and magistrates,
poor resources, and persistent bribery prolong the resolution of court
cases unreasonably. There is no enforcement mechanism to protect
intellectual property rights,` researchers added.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PNCR calls for value-for-money audits of public sector expenditure

Kaieteur News news item, Sunday 11 January 2009

PNCR calls for value-for-money audits of public sector expenditure
January 11, 2009 | By knews |

Volda Lawrence
By Gary Eleazar
There is dire need for the value for money audits of public expenditure in
This is according to Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC),
Member of Parliament and Executive member of the People's National Congress
Reform Volda Lawrence during the party's first press briefing of 2009.
According to Lawrence, the public is continuously regaled with claims of the
expenditure of massive sums of public money for infrastructural and other
projects, "yet we are witnessing the rapid deterioration of our bridges,
drainage systems, roads, among others."
The PAC chairperson told media operatives that the latest examples are the
sorry state of the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the claim that the Government
has spent G$1.7B to prepare the drainage system for the current rainy
"All of this points to the importance of Public Oversight and
Lawrence added also that the non appointment of a substantive Auditor
General and the non completion of arrangements for the autonomy of the
Office of the Auditor General are all part of the scheme to avoid effective
Oversight and Accountability to the people of Guyana, through the National
"There is evidently the need to have an effectively and efficiently
functioning Office of the Auditor General, equipped with the resources to
undertake value-for-money audits of Public sector expenditure...The Guyanese
people are yet to be presented with the audited accounts for the funds
expended during the 2005 floods, the Cricket World Cup and Carifesta X."
She added also that the President continues to behave as if "the public
purse is his to dispose of as capriciously as he alone determines".
This, she said, was evident from his refusal to have the Lotto funds placed
in the Consolidated Fund and his practice of the extra-budgetary allocation
of public funds as he deems fit.
The Audit Office of Guyana did in October benefit from a value for money
audit workshop.
The Canadian Comprehensive Audit Foundation (CCAF) hosted the five-day
workshop which included employees of the Auditor General's Office as well as
participants from Barbados, Argentina, Costa Rica and St Lucia.
According to Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, the diversity in the
participants would have significantly enhanced the capacity of his staff,
and will be reflected in the value-for-money audit that is slated for the
current audit underway.
Twenty-eight staffers of the Audit Office were also last year engaged in a
three-day capacity building workshop on quality assurance auditing.
That workshop was part of a US$600,000 IDB consultancy programme to
strengthen the functioning of the Audit Office in Guyana.

This road in Region Nine was built in early 2008 and by year-end it had
already deteriorated with some sections eroded by as much as three to four
The money was secured in 2007 when Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and then
Resident Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Sergio
Varas Olea, entered into a non-reimbursable technical co-operation agreement
to finance the implementation of the Strategic Plan of the Audit Office of
The US$600,000 grant would support previous activities which the Government
undertook to strengthen and modernise the Audit Office, by improving its
structure and operation through support to the implementation of critical
activities of its Strategic Development Plan.
The Government had also previously sought to advance the modernisation and
strengthening of the Audit Office, with the support of the IDB, through a
non-reimbursable technical assistance contribution, which commenced in May
2003 and was considered the first phase of the process.
In the overview of his 2006 Auditor General Report, Sharma had stressed that
there were a number of other issues that were still to be addressed with
respect to improving procedures, practices and standards within the Office.
One such issue, he identified, was the implementation of a Performance
Audit/Value for Money Section.
This, he said, is expected to be phased in over a three-year period with the
formulation of a manual for the execution of VFM audits, the setting up of a
VFM audit section that is adequately staffed, and the staff trained in the
conduct of such audits.
He had noted, too, that another issue to be addressed was the establishment
of a Forensic Unit with well-formulated procedures and staff trained to
conduct forensic audits.
"In addition, the complete implementation of a Quality Review Section, with
well-documented review procedures and appropriately qualified staff, will go
along way in enhancing the review component of each audit, as well as
contributing to consistent and appropriate reports being issued....
It is expected that additional funding in the form of another IDB grant can
be secured to assist in the continued strengthening of the Audit Office,
with the implementation of these vital aspects."

Flood co-ordination weak, Oxfam says

Flood co-ordination weak, Oxfam says

Stabroek News, January 15, 2009

-CDC under-resourced
The severe flooding of coastal communities in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and others situated alongside rivers has been met with “weak” coordination on the ground by the relevant stakeholders, an assessment conducted by Oxfam International has revealed.

It has also found that the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which is responsible for coordinating emergency responses, has been hindered by limited resources.

Head of the Task Force to Aid Farmers, Brian Greenidge, was however, reported last night by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that NGO’s report is not comprehensive and does not speak of the numerous actions taken to alleviate the situation.
According to the Oxfam International Situation report, the flooding situation this year seems to be comparable with the situation in 2005, when the country experienced its worst case of extensive rainfall and flooding. Continuous intense rainfall, which began in December, has led to flooding of communities, with the worst hit communities having approximately five feet of water in some areas. Low-lying agricultural areas have been the hardest hit.

Following a temporary suspension of the Oxfam DIPECHO program, and the consequent lack of information, Oxfam International decided to send out a team to assess the situation.

The assessment found that there has been “weak coordination on the ground” exemplified by the absence of large scale responses by stakeholders.

However, it did note that there had been small-scale interventions from the Guyana Water Inc. -which has been providing drinking water-and by the Guyana Red Cross, which has been supplying hygiene kits to affected residents, while the Ministries of health and agriculture have been visiting several of the more severely affected areas. While acknowledging that there had not been a large outbreak of diseases or any food shortages, the assessment noted several other areas of concern, including the high percentage of flooded latrines, the breakages and contamination of piped water affecting the provision of potable water, and the widespread loss of property by farmers. It estimated that the livelihoods of several farms have already been substantially affected.

The assessment also highlighted the inability of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) to adequately deal with the flood situation. The CDC has been mandated by the government to coordinate the collection of data and the response, but although willing it has very limited resources to accomplish this mandate, according to Oxfam.

It said apart from a few exceptions, the CDC does not receive sufficient or quality inputs from other stakeholders. However, Oxfam International is supporting the CDC in enforcing its role and will be helping it to take up its responsibility to lead the emergency operations through “advocacy/ lobby, capacity support, sharing of tools and experiences.”

The report also acknowledged the limited presence of international organizations active in the country at the time and has promised to engage international organisations in an attempt to have them take up a more active role. Already several community mobilisers and support staff from the DIPECHO project and several senior officials from Oxfam International are in Guyana to offer support.

But according to GINA, Greenidge, who is the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, said the assessment sought to discount the efforts of the agencies which have been working assiduously to bring relief to affected communities. “The key issues raised are not comprehensive on flooding in communities in Regions No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and the report does not reflect the many drainage interventions by the NDIA (National Drainage and Irrigation Authority) and the MMA/ADA (Mahaica, Mahaicony,Abary/Agricultural Development Authority) working with local government bodies to aid in the removal of flood and high water accumulated in low lying areas due to excessive rainfall,” he was quoted as saying.

Greenidge added that drainage projects completed prior to the rainy season and various interventions that are continuing through the rainy period have yielded positive results in the quick removal of accumulated water. He said: “The NDIA has been working closely with farmers, community groups and residents in implementing many of the drainage works. The work of these two agencies was well coordinated in all areas in supporting the RDCs and NDCs. To date the NDIA and Ministry of Agriculture have not received a positive response from Oxfam in establishing a MOU to foster collaboration.”

In relation to the availability of information and the response by the Ministry of Agriculture, Greenidge said it was very clear that Oxfam is not fully in touch with the real situation on the ground, noting that since the flooding started the Ministry of Agriculture has deployed Veterinary Officers and Livestock Assistants in addition to Crop Reporters and Extension Officers, to provide technical assistance while compiling a data base of persons affected among other agronomic and economic information.

Other key agencies such as the Guyana Rice Develop-ment Board (GRDB) and the New Guyana Marketing Corporation have a coordinated response to the situation on the ground and this information is passed on daily to the CDC which has a 24-hour office that leads the overall coordination effort, GINA reported.

Sugar shake-up

Stabroek News. January 15, 2009

*Errol Hanoman new chief executive
*Booker Tate management contract ends
*New board to present blueprint for success

Former Finance Director Errol Hanoman has been named as new Chief Executive of GuySuCo in a shake-up that will see the longstanding Booker-Tate management contract end and an interim board has been given a month to present a `blueprint for success’ to lift the country’s key foreign exchange earner out of a production slump.

With immediate effect the new board headed by Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Dr. Nanda Gopaul will take up the reins of control and within one month will “present a blueprint of success that will detail strategies over the next two to three years” designed to turn around the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud announced at a joint press conference with Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon at the Office of the President yesterday. The sugar shake-up has been signalled for months in the face of slumping production, tight finances and questions about decisions made by the Booker Tate-led management. Dr Gopaul, a former President of the sugar union NAACIE and former head of the public service, replaces Ronald Alli as chairman.
Errol Hanoman

Errol Hanoman

The other board members are Geeta Singh-Knights; Keith Burrowes; Dr Rajendra Singh; Donald Ramotar and Jangbahadur Raghurai. Hanoman has been appointed Chief Executive with effect from February 14, 2009 when the current Chief Executive Nick Jackson steps down to take up a new position in Swaziland.

Hanoman, an accountant, joined Booker Tate as a Regional Finance Manager in 1995 following years of service with GuySuCo. In September 2002, Hanoman was appointed Business Director and the focus of his client responsibility returned to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Dr. Luncheon referred to the changes as “a preliminary plan of action” that President Bharrat Jagdeo devised following key consultations in the industry a short while ago. He said there is a clear understanding among those involved in the turnaround process that more is to come. He said Cabinet supports the changes, but emphasised that the new board is a short-term one that is expected to work on a recovery plan to be effected within the shortest possible time.

The administration’s arrangement with Booker Tate Ltd has also changed with a new agreement taking effect in April. Persaud said Booker Tate will continue to provide, on an ongoing basis, the required skills that are difficult to attract, but pointed out that a Technical Support Services Agreement will replace the current Corporate Management Agreement between the administration and Booker Tate. He noted that it will involve required programmed visits by specialists as well as the provision of specific technical personnel to be based in Guyana as required.

In this new agreement, the visits by the technical specialists will cover all aspects of business including finance, factory and agriculture and will make specific recommendations for improvement. The current management arrangement with Booker Tate will end on March 31, 2009. Booker Tate secured a management contract in 1990 after sugar production had fallen disastrously to around 130,000 tonnes per annum. In the succeeding years the Booker Tate-managed Guysuco succeeded in upping production significantly but there has been a sharp decline in the last three or four years.

As GuySuCo struggles to recover from a poor performance last year, a 2008 overdraft of $3.1B and previous years of declining production figures, Persaud told reporters, the recovery plan is critical. He noted too, that the delay in the commissioning of the new sugar factory at Skeldon has aggravated GuySuCo’s problems. But financing has been secured through a combination of local banks and foreign sources according to him, therefore the current focus is on recovery and sustainability in the industry, which is bracing for another round of price cutting in the European market this year.

GuySuCo has set a target of 290,000 tonnes of sugar for this year, but the Agriculture Minister said the figure is subject to a review based on the rainy season. He contended yesterday that the rainfall was among the factors that affected the industry last year releasing figures that indicated that 3,011mm of rainfall was recorded for 2008; there had been 1,990 mm in 2004; 2,484mm in 2005; 2,286 mm in 2006 and 2,554mm in 2007. He gave the opportunity days as being the lowest in 2008 being 465; previous years from 2004 to 2007 showed opportunity days at 653; 594; 627 and 501 respectively.

Persaud said that while the industry is bracing for heavy losses on the European market there has been no other significant change and or any indicators that show a particularly negative impact on GuySuCo for several more years. He said that a particular focus of the local industry this year would be to “tap into markets that are available such as those for specialized and packaged sugar”. He added that the sugar company has been unable to tap into this so far though there have been a few developments in this area.

But market access depends on production, and according to Persaud the current figure would need to exceed 290,000 tonnes. However, he said there is no current indication that points in the direction of an increased target this year.

GuySuCo’s new board is expected to interact with stakeholders including the unions as it draws up a new plan and the new strategies will be includes in the current update of the company’s business plan that the new board will review. According to the Agriculture Minister, the new management team will review cost saving initiatives; cane production performance and the progress of the Chinese contractor on completing the necessary tests among other things at the new Skeldon factory. He said too, that the team will tackle wastage and corruption, noting that past reports have found corrupt practices.

Commenting on corruption in the industry, he said, that internal audits have pointed to practices of malfeasance and corruption. “… just talk to people on the ground and you will hear the most horrid stories”, he added.

With respect to the new factory at Skeldon, he said GuySuCo has already filed for liquidated damages which are around US$5M given the failure of the Chinese firm to hand over the factory on time. He said that the interim board would review the recent plan of action that was drafted by the former board and see to it that the Chinese implement the recommendations. He added that the factory is not likely to be ready for the next crop.
Further, as a feature of the company’s restructuring, estates across the country have been grouped into two regions, Demerara and Berbice. The Demerara region comprises Enmore, LBI, Uitvlugt and Wales, while the Berbice region includes Albion, Blairmont and Rose Hall. Persaud said that each region is headed up by a Regional Director (RD), reporting to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DECO), which is a new position that has been created. He noted that the Estate Manager will report directly to RDs while the Agriculture and Factory Managers report to the Estate Manager, additionally the Finance and Human Resource Managers will report to their respective Head Office. Skeldon will continue to operate independently, reporting only to the DCEO.

A report was recently done for the Agriculture Minister by former Chairman Vic Oditt on problems at the East Demerara Estate.

‘Oversized’ gov’t here

‘Oversized’ gov’t here
Stabroek News.

Posted By Staff On January 14, 2009 @ 5:58 am In News | 101 Comments

-Index of Economic Freedom finds
Guyana’s ranking has fallen in a worldwide survey of economic freedoms that lists “oversized government” as the biggest barrier to the country’s development.

In the Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation 2009 Index of Economic Freedom released yesterday, Guyana’s economic freedom score was put at 48.4 for a ranking of 155 of 183 nations that were surveyed. Guyana’s overall score is 0.4 of a point lower than last year because improvements in four of the 10 economic freedoms were offset by a large decline in the government size score. “Guyana does not rank strongly in any category of economic freedom and is slightly above the world average only in labour freedom,” the Index said, explaining that although macroeconomic and financial-sector stability has been maintained, average economic growth over the past five years was only about 1%.

The Index groups the country among economically “repressed” nations, and places it 27 of the 29 countries surveyed in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is well below the world average. Only Cuba and Venezuela were ranked lower in the region. Five Caribbean countries were listed in the top ten countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region rankings. Barbados was at the top with a score of 71.5, followed by the Bahamas with 70.3, Saint Lucia with 68.8, Trinidad and Tobago with 68 and Jamaica with 65.2.

Hong Kong topped the survey with a score of 90.0, followed by Singapore with 87.1, Austria with 82.6, Ireland with 82.2 and New Zealand with 82.0. The entire index is available at:

According to the Index, Guyanese face substantial constraints on their overall economic freedom. It said property rights are protected only erratically under the weak rule of law, and corruption is a problem in all areas of government. It identified the biggest barrier to development as Guyana’s oversized government, noting that expenditures exceed half of GDP. It added that significant restrictions on foreign investment have been addressed only marginally, and these restrictions, combined with an inefficient bureaucracy, substantially limit investment and business freedom.

Scores are computed based on 10 broad factors of economic freedom, using statistics from organizations like the World Bank, the IMF and the Economist Intelligence Unit. Equal weighting is given to Business Freedom, Trade Freedom, Monetary Freedom, Freedom from Government, Fiscal Freedom, Property Rights, Investment Freedom, Financial Freedom, Freedom from Corruption and Labour Freedom. Each indicator is graded on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 represents the maximum freedom. A country’s overall score is based on an average derived from the total score.

In the area of Business Freedom, Guyana’s score is 60.9. The index found that overall freedom to conduct a business is restricted by Guyana’s regulatory environment. Starting a business takes an average of 40 days, it said, roughly equal to the world average of 38 days. Obtaining a business licence requires less than the world average of 18 procedures, but it noted that closing a business can be lengthy and costly.

For Trade Freedom, the score is 72.6. Import restrictions, import taxes, import-licensing requirements for a relatively large number of products, burdensome standards and regulations, inefficient customs administration, inadequate infrastructure, and corruption were said to add to the cost of trade. Fifteen points were deducted from Guyana’s trade freedom score to account for non-tariff barriers.

In the area of Fiscal Freedom, Guyana’s score is 66.5. The index said that the country has high tax rates. The top income tax rate is 33.3 percent while the top corporate tax rate is 35 percent. Other taxes include a fuel tax and a sales tax. A value-added tax (VAT) was implemented in January 2007. In the most recent year, it said that the overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 31.9 percent.

With only 3.2, Guyana scored poorly for the size of its Government. Total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, were listed as high. Additionally, it was noted that privatization of state-owned enterprises achieved mixed results, while poor management of public expenditures and constantly increasing social spending were found to contribute to persistent fiscal deficits. In the most recent year, government spending equalled 56.8 percent of GDP.

The Monetary Freedom score is 69.6 against a background of high inflation, averaging 10.4% between 2005 and 2007. The Index said Guyana has made progress in removing most price controls and privatizing the large public sector, but noted that the government still influences prices through the regulation of state-owned utilities and enterprises. Also, ten points were deducted from the country’s monetary freedom score to adjust for measures that distort domestic prices.

The Investment Freedom score is 40.0 and although it was found that the government remains cautious about approving new investments, the Index noted that the country has been moving toward a more welcoming environment for foreign investors. At the same time, it added that the approval process can be burdensome and non-transparent. “The government still screens most investment, and the relevant ministries have significant discretion in issuing licenses and approval,” it said. Residents (with restrictions) and non-residents are allowed to hold foreign exchange accounts. Payments and transfers are not restricted. And while most capital transactions are unrestricted, all credit operations are controlled.

In the area of Financial Freedom, the country’s score is 40.0. According to the Index, Guyana’s “underdeveloped” financial system is dominated by banking. It said high credit costs and scarce access to financing remain barriers to more dynamic entrepreneurial activity. Overall, it said the banking system remains inefficient. The percentage of loans that are considered non-performing is relatively high at 14 percent, down from 25 percent during the mid-1990s.

The country scored 40.0 in the area of Property Rights, with the judicial system being described as being often slow and inefficient and subject to corruption. It was noted that law enforcement officials and prominent lawyers question the independence of the judiciary and accuse the government of intervening in some cases. Additionally, a shortage of trained court personnel and magistrates, poor resources, and persistent bribery were highlighted as being responsible for prolonging the resolution of court cases unreasonably. The absence of enforcement mechanisms to protect intellectual property rights was also noted.

Guyana also received a poor score for Freedom From Corruption, with 26.0. It was noted that corruption is perceived as widespread and the country’s ranking at 123 of 179 countries on the 2007 Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index was cited. “There is extensive corruption at every level of law enforcement and government,” the Index said, pointing out that widespread corruption undermines poverty-reduction efforts by international aid donors and discourages potential foreign investors.

For Labour Freedom, the score was 65.2. Guyana’s relatively flexible labour regulations were cited as being responsible for enhancing employment and productivity growth. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is low, but dismissing a redundant employee is relatively costly, it added. The difficulty of laying off workers was also cited as a disincentive to employment growth.

Let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top

Kaieteur News letter to the Editor, Saturday 10 January 2009

Let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top
January 10, 2009 | By knews |

Dear Editor,
The article of Thursday January 8, 2009; captioned "Customs Officers assets
to be scrutinized - President", conjures up, once again, a clearly
paradoxical and lopsided development which creates an opportunity for a
renewed call by Guyanese to demand that the business of scrutinizing assets
extends to Senior Government functionaries.
It is obvious that President Jagdeo's decision to scrutinize the assets of
Customs Officers stemmed as a result of the Polar Beer scam regarding
Fidelity Investment and Kong Inc, in which, it is reported that, Polar Beers
imported in Guyana, through this company, were registered as soft drinks in
order to defraud the government of revenue, a case in which several Customs
Officers are implicated.
It is critical that none of us engage in those behaviors that will rape our
country of needed revenue, since such behaviours are likely to negatively
impact on the lives of our citizens, particularly the poor, children, and
the elderly. However, the President's recent decision to scrutinize assets
of Customs Officers should not only be limited to those officers but must be
extended to all senior government functionaries; including Ministers of the
It is important that if we are committed to "a cleaning house project" that
all suspected parties must be part of the process, too often we react with
these plastic surgery approaches which are limited in their effect, stymied
in their scope, and lack a truly comprehensive and holistic approach to
solving well entrenched problems. I am in support of the investigation of
any wrong doing but I also believe that these investigations must not be
seen as an attempt to create scapegoats, while the masterminds and "silver
collar criminals" are ignored or allowed to pursue their hidden agendas
undisturbed. The President must demonstrate to the Guyanese people that he
is committed to rake out corruption from even within the bosom of his
government. At the time of the "stone scam" within the Ministry of Works and
Hydraulics, and of which the then Minister was identified as the main
mastermind, Guyanese called for an intensive investigation, what did we get;
the Minister involved in the allegation remained on the job until he
resigned. Then there was the scam at the Legal Affairs Ministry, which saw
the then, Permanent Secretary, being deeply implicated in the matter which
also involved hundreds of thousands of dollars, what happened? There are
many other instances of fraud allegedly committed by senior government
functionaries, but we never hear the President call for the assets of his
allies to be scrutinized, and the public must be concerned about these
developments. According to the Constitution "no one is above the law".
It is believed that many of these fraud cases do not start and stop with
those involved in the actual fraudulent transactions; which might be
detected at the most basic level, but that they have a deeper connection to
some of the most well connected, who see themselves as immune or absolved
from investigations because of their affiliations. So, I again call on the
President to demonstrate a truly non-partisan position on this matter and,
let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top. There are claims of
Ministers owning millions of dollars of assets soon after their elevation to
their current position. There are claims that comrades who were once riding
bicycle a year before they assumed Ministerial portfolio, and key government
posts have come to own three of four personal vehicles such as the coveted
"prado", and other name brand types.
There are also serious allegations out there which suggest that senior
government functionaries benefit from "drawbacks" connected to the tendering
process. So Mr. President, let it be known that I am all for investigation
of wrong doings but I believe that the Guyanese people will be better
satisfied if you demonstrate that unwavering commitment to a fair and
unbiased approach to end corruption. Good governance dictates that those put
in charge of public revenue, goods and services account to the people.
In the news item the President is quoted as saying that the AG's report,
regarding the Fidelity Investment Fraud, will be tabled in the National
Assembly for public scrutiny as soon as possible, according to him as early
as the next two or three sittings. I find the President's intent on making
such pronouncement in advance of the completion of the report quite
interesting, I am however, disappointed, and perplexed as to why he did not
act with such haste to ensure that the torture report, which has been
completed more than six months now, be tabled in the National Assembly for
You see Mr. Jagdeo, actions like these show clear inconsistencies in what
you say and how you address issues, for this reason ill motives can be
easily imputed for your actions. The complaint of citizens being tortured is
a serious human rights issue which strikes at the core of our pseudo
So I take this opportunity to reiterate my call for the torture report to be
laid in the public domain, in fact, it should be brought and entertained for
debate in the National Assembly before the AG's report on the alleged
Customs Fraud. And, let the chips lay where they fall.
A Blessed New Year to all.
Lurlene Nestor.

National Assembly, Private Sector must develop full-time capacity

Guyana Chronicle news item, Friday 09 January 2009
National Assembly, Private Sector must develop full-time capacity
By Priya Nauth

SPEAKER of the National Assembly, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, said the time has
come for both the Private Sector and the National Assembly to begin thinking
of developing full-time capacity to manage their engagements.
He made this remark last Friday during a presentation entitled 'the National
Assembly as a facilitator and promoter of investment and business activities
in Guyana', at a business luncheon hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and
Services Association Ltd (GMSA) as part of its private sector awareness
programme, at Regency Suites Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
"The establishment of strong and independent relationships between business
organisations and parliamentary committees is proper and desirable, as it is
the duty of all stakeholders on both sides to seek out opinions and to offer
opinions," he told the gathering.
"We have not yet seen a decisive impact of the Committee system on the work
of the National Assembly for a variety of reasons. One certainly is the need
for a larger and better trained staff" he observed.
Ramkarran noted, "In order to facilitate this process more effectively, the
time has come for both the private sector and the National Assembly to begin
thinking of developing full-time capacity to manage their engagements."
He said this may not prove to be a difficult task for the private sector.
However, he said, "In relation to the National Assembly, full-time Members
of Parliament (MPs) must be on the agenda if Parliamentary oversight, which
is being increasingly seen as the key to the development of accountability,
is to be effective."
"While it is appreciated that there is competition for scarce resources, and
increased salaries for MPs might not be at the top of the agenda, the demand
for strengthened accountability is driving it there," he pointed out.
The Speaker of the National Assembly suggested that as a start,
consideration can be given to elevating the Chairs and Deputy Chairs of
Sectoral Committees, and maybe the Public Accounts Committee, together with
a deputy to be provided for in the Standing Orders, to be full-time MPs.
"In this way the work of both the private sector and the National Assembly
can be immeasurably enhanced," he stated.
He noted that the National Assembly is small and under-resourced, having
regard to the level of economic development; however, much effort and state
and donor resources are still being directed to ongoing reforms.
"As part of these, we can develop stakeholder interest and commitment to
utilise the capacity for engagement without requiring expenditure of any
significant amount," Ramkarran noted.
"In this way, one of Parliament's fundamental missions of oversight of the
executive will be nearer to reality," he posited.
"The business community is one section of our society which is substantially
affected by what parliament does and what parliament is going to do in the
future, and it must get on the front seat if it seeks to protect its
interest and those of the community, and to preserve and advance business
activities," Ramkarran attested.
"You cannot expect someone else to be looking out for you and your
interests. You must do so yourself and organise yourself in such a way that
this can be done competently and efficiently," he charged.
He said the next layer of responsibility lies on the Government, which
promulgates all legislation in Guyana.
"It is for you and the Government to establish modalities for your
consultation...the National Assembly, it is our responsibility to inform and
educate the public and the various interests in the community, as to the
possibilities and avenues which exist to communicate their views to the
lawmakers, and at the same time, to the wider community," he said.
To this end, he said, the Economic Services Committee provides a major
Parliamentary forum to which the business community can take its concerns.
"No such forum existed prior to 2005. The business community had no
possibility of engaging the Parliament independently as an institution. It
could only have done so through its individual members or their political
party," the Speaker of the National Assembly recalled.
"This committee can convene hearings, take evidence, and report its
conclusion to the National Assembly. For the first time, the business
community can have its views reported as a community directly to the
National Assembly," he reiterated.
He also noted that the hearings of the Sectoral Committees are public, so
that simultaneously with the transmission of its views to the Committee,
public education is also accomplished.
"The business community has to find ways, by lobbying and other means, to
persuade the appropriate Parliamentary Committee to take on board its
particular concerns and consider it important enough to place the matter on
its agenda," he advised.
Hence, the business community needs to familiarise itself with lobbying
skills, Parliamentary procedures and having regard to the country's small
size, the personalities involved, he suggested.
"Where it has to deal with specific legislation, it has to build the
capacity to monitor what the National Assembly is doing, to understand it,
to determine its views in a timely manner, to mobilise its members, and to
intervene," the Speaker emphasized.

Barama willing to have Cunha Canal resuscitated

Guyana Chronicle news item, Friday 09 January 2009
Barama willing to have Cunha Canal resuscitated

Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, yesterday said Barama Company Limited
has indicated its willingness to facilitate any work necessary for the
resuscitation of Cunha Canal.
The project, which will significantly improve drainage in the East Demerara
Water Conservancy (EDWC), is currently operating at 40 per cent of its
Persaud pointed out that the design and technical specifications for the
work have been completed, and upon completion, the 1.8 mile canal will
discharge about 500 cubic feet of water per second into the Demerara River.
He disclosed that efforts are being made to secure funding for the US$ 1.2 M
initiative from the Department for International Development (DIFID).
The project is part of the National Drainage and Irrigation Master Plan and
will supplement other projects to ensure efficient drainage of the EDWC.
Persaud said incremental work is being done on some components of the plan,
but pointed out when resources are available, the entire drainage system on
East Coast Demerara and the Mahaica Mahaicony and Abary areas will be
He said distinguished engineer from Mc Gill University, Canada Dr Chandra
Madramotto, and seasoned experts in the field Mr. Burt Carter, Mr. Paul
Sarran and Mr. Phillip Alsopp have been enlisted to provide technical advice
to the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the Mahaica
Mahaicony Abary/ Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) in this

President Jagdeo again urges more international support for drugs fight

GC news item, Thursday 08 January 2009
President Jagdeo again urges more international support for drugs fight
By Sharief Khan
"I am very pleased with the success that we have had in collaboration with
the international community (but) I still feel we need more support for our
drugs fighting efforts" - President Jagdeo
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday welcomed the collaboration that led to
the recent seizure overseas of more than 500 kilos of cocaine shipped from
Guyana but said the United States, Canada and other developed countries have
to do more to aid the fight here against drugs traffickers.
"I am very pleased with the success that we have had in collaboration with
the international community (but) I still feel we need more support for our
drugs fighting efforts", he said at a press conference at his office in
He said local agencies need more equipment, training and a whole range of
assistance from the developed world in the drugs fight, noting that the
collaboration has worked well.
A local official yesterday bemoaned the delay in requests for information
from American and Canadian agencies in the recent big busts in Canada and
the U.S. He said investigators here had to release a suspect because they
had not received information requested on the man from the Canadian and
American agencies.
Mr. Jagdeo said the policy of the developed countries is counter-productive,
especially in deporting convicted drugs offenders to places like Guyana.
He said the developed world wants countries like Guyana to do more in the
battle against drugs trafficking but insists on sending high-profile and
other traffickers here and to other countries.
"While we welcome the partnership and continue to work together with our
international partners, there are always these dimensions", he said.
The recent interception by Canadian and American agencies of cocaine shipped
from here and the resulting media publicity are apparently fuelling the heat
on central local players who still have to pay suppliers for the seized
consignments, one source said.
The source said they are tracking a West Demerara businessman who is a known
major drugs dealer and has been implicated in the recent shipments.
Some of those under questioning by Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) agents
and police are among local buyers of cocaine from suppliers in Colombia and
Venezuela, the official said.
Those being questioned include Robin Barakat, a Canadian citizen named as a
suspect and who turned himself in to CANU Monday. A source said the
37-year-old gave his name as Salim Paul and was accompanied by attorney Vic
Puran when he turned up.
The source said he admitted owning a pawn shop in Georgetown and knowing
Indarpaul Moninlall Doodnauth, another suspect is being questioned by
investigators but denied involvement in shipping cocaine to Canada.
Barakat's business partner Keith King also turned himself into CANU, the
source said.
An official said police have questioned Barakat about a shipment of cocaine
that was intercepted last year in Jamaica.
Doodnauth, also known as Teddy, 48, a businessman of Lusignan West, East
Coast Demerara, and brother of the man charged in Canada after the recent
big cocaine bust there, turned himself in to officials last week.
Police had issued wanted bulletins for Doodnauth and Amalek Orlando Watson,
31, a self-employed man of Annandale West, East Coast Demerara.
Doodnauth and Watson were allegedly middle men in the shipment of two
consignments of cocaine concealed among pepper sauce bottles from Guyana.
They allegedly packed the cocaine into the boxes with the bottles of pepper
sauce, the source said.
A central suspect, Nymrod Singh, 37, of 123 New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, West
Coast Demerara, was held Saturday by police in Bartica and has been grilled
by CANU and police officers.
Singh was wanted in connection with the interception of cocaine hidden in
nibbi furniture seized in Miami last week and shipped on behalf of the West
Coast Demerara businessman, sources said.
The 373 pounds of cocaine were stashed in the furniture consignment here and
shipment was arranged by a customs broker through a ghost firm, a source
Police and CANU agents are also looking for Reginald Rodrigues, 55, who owns
Rodrigues Tropical Export based at 141 Victoria Street, Albouystown,
He was deported from the U.S. in 2001 after a three-year sentence in jail
for conspiracy to import cocaine, the source said.
According to the source, investigators are also looking for his wife Edna, a
swimming coach at the Colgrain Pool in Georgetown.
A cocaine shipment seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
in the U.S. Virgin Islands last week was worth CAN$14.5 million.
Media reports in Canada said the consignment was destined for Caribbean
International Food Distributors, the same company run by a Guyanese man
charged by Canadian police in the major CAN$40 million drug shipment earlier
last week.
Mahendrapaul Doodnauth, 45, of Seguin Court in Toronto, is charged with
importing cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of cocaine
for the purpose of trafficking.
The second container was searched in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Dec.
24 by DEA agents acting on information received from Canadian investigators,
the Toronto Star reported.
Inside the ship, police found 100 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside
cardboard dividers in about 140 boxes of food seasoning destined for the
Etobicoke-based distribution company run by Doodnauth.
Along with the previous shipment, the amount of cocaine seized totals 376
kilograms, with an estimated street value of CAN$54.5 million.