Chinese buyer reneged on paying US$5M debt – Dr Jagdeo

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Missing GT&T Shares…

The Chinese company that had purchased the 20 per cent shares held by Government in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) had attempted to coerce Guyana’s Ambassador to China into not making its final payment and Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is of the view, “if they don’t pay we will have to take legal action.”

Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoOpposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Dr Jagdeo made the disclosure on Thursday when he sought to clear the air on the seemingly missing US$5 million.The Chinese buyer – Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group – had agreed to pay US$30 million for the 20 per cent shares Government held in the telephone giant but the company has since refused to pay its final tranche of US$5 million.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had travelled to China after the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government took office to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing payment.

He has since said that National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) will have to make the pronouncements on the money.

However,  Dr Jagdeo on Thursday said that the Chinese buyer never made its final payment for the shares.

Seeking to provide some context on the deal that would have been initiated during his tenure in Office, Dr Jagdeo said the sale of the shares was publicly advertised but this process saw the highest bidder coming at US$7 million for the 20 per cent shares.

This, he said, was found to be unsatisfactory by Government but when it got wind that the Chinese company was interested, negotiations were embarked on and a sale price of US$30 million was agreed on.

The company had agreed to pay an initial US$25 million when it signed the agreement with the final tranche being paid within two years.

This did not occur, and according to Dr Jagdeo, during this time there arose a big issue which led to a back-and-forth between NICIL and the Chinese company which had refused to make its final payment, claiming that it did not get its ‘Golden Share’ allowing it greater representation on the board of directors at GT&T.

According to Dr Jagdeo the Chinese company made an issue of the fact that they did not get the directorships on the board as was purportedly promised and as such did not want to pay.

Dr Jagdeo said the company had even engaged the then Guyana Ambassador to China, Professor David Dabydeen and had claimed that he gave approval to not pay the remaining US$5 million.

The former President now Opposition Leader has staunchly denied this, telling the media Thursday that the Ambassador had said ‘no.’

“We are saying the money was not paid,” Jagdeo declared.

He suggested that if Government maintains otherwise then all that is required is to request of the company to whom the money was paid.

Dr Jagdeo remarked that the Chinese buyer had attempted to coerce Ambassador Dabydeen into entering some sort of agreement to not pay the outstanding amount, but this never materialised.

According to the Opposition leader the Chinese company could use whatever reason it wants but “if they don’t pay we will have to legal action.”

At a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency on April 20 last, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Raphael Trotman, had said the administration is currently trying to locate the US$5 million outstanding to the Government.

Trotman told the media that Minister Harmon discovered that the money was paid to NICIL before May 16 last year. It is unclear to whom specifically the money was paid.

“What I can say is that Mr Harmon has been able to retrieve some documents which tell a different story, and that story is that the $5 million was paid; and we are trying to track down to whom, when and where; and that was before May 16, 2015,” Trotman said.

Former President Donald Ramotar has denied that the US$5 million owed by the Chinese company had been paid to his administration prior to the May 11, 2015 general elections.

“The claim by the APNU/AFC Government that the money was received is a lie, and I challenge the Government to present the ‘documents’ it has received, so that the veracity of the evidence can be tested and authenticated,” the former President had said. (Guyana Times)

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