NICIL prepares for arbitration to recover monies

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…Missing US$5M for GT&T shares

The National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) has maintained that it is yet to receive the US$5 million outstanding to the Government of Guyana for the purchase of the State’s 20 per cent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) Company and has since taken certain steps to recoup the monies.

Officer in charge of NICIL,  Horace James
Officer in charge of NICIL, Horace James

“Let it be clear, NICIL has not received the remaining US$5 million that is owed to NICIL,” Officer in charge of NICIL, Horace James, declared at a year end press briefing on Friday. He noted that NICIL is in the process of executing all the relief measures contained in the sales agreement to recover the monies owed to Government.

James said that NICIL has consulted its lawyers in the United States, who were involved in drafting the sales agreement.

“We continue to utilise them and they have recommended a (law firm) in the United Kingdom to go to arbitration whenever that time comes, when we will go there. It is important that we use a UK company because the arbitration will be held in London,” he stated.

It was reported that shares sale agreement between Hong Kong Telecom and the Guyana Government was framed in such a manner that in the event of any legal issue, Guyana or the Chinese company would have to petition the United Kingdom courts.

According to the NICIL official, in addition to recouping the US$5 million the organisation will also be looking to recover interests and legal fees, as well as going after the signatory to the sales agreement and the guarantor listed.

“We will be going for the entire thing… So that process has started. Our lawyers have presented all the issues concerning the shares sale and advise us that we have a very good chance of getting the entire thing that we are seeking,” James stated.

In 2012, Chinese company Hong Kong Telecom purchased Government’s 20 per cent shares in GTT from NICIL at the cost of US$30 million. However, based on an agreement with the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, the company only paid US$25 million and had two years to make the outstanding payment but never did.

It was reported that Hong Kong Telecom had refused to make the payments within the stipulated time after it requested to have an additional Director on GTT’s Board. However, the local telephone company rejected the request, saying that based on the amount of shares the Chinese company had, it is only entitled to one Director on the Board.

In this vein, Minister Harmon and a NICIL executive went to China in April with the aim of recouping the outstanding monies from the Chinese company. Upon their return, however, it was disclosed that they obtained documents, which claim the US$5 million was already paid to Guyana by the Chinese company.

Further investigations revealed that Hong Kong Telecom had indicated to Harmon that following a series of communications with the former Guyanese Ambassador to China, David Dabydeen, the company was assured that it was not required to pay the remaining US$5 million.

The company claimed that this is because it was not granted the same minority protection rights that used to be enjoyed by the Guyana Government which is two, instead of one, representatives on the GTT Board.

But this claim was not supported by any other former Government official or any documents in the hands of the current Administration.

In fact, former President Donald Ramotar had stated that no debt wavier was given to the Chinese company by the former Guyanese Diplomat.

Nevertheless, James on Friday pointed out that only NICIL would be in a position to strike such a deal with Hong Kong Telecom since the share sales transaction was done with NICIL and that company.

“They were under the impression that they were relieved from paying the money but that was never so. Any payment of the money was to be done directly to NICIL… Our position has always been, we sold you the shares and you made the initial payment to us… therefore the second payment has to be made to us, so it’s not our duty to go looking to find out if you pay anybody else,” the NICIL official outlined. (Guyana Times)

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