President Dr Irfaan Ali has cautioned investors coming to do business in Guyana that there is no need for them to engage middlemen and lobbyists in setting up operations here, declaring that they could be held accountable if caught in any illegal act.
The Head of State made this remark in light of allegations made during a broadcast done by the US-based VICE News. In an extended video published last week, a VICE News Journalist went undercover and spoke with several persons from within the Chinese community here and they discussed “working the system”.
According to the Journalist, middlemen are allegedly paid money to get projects or other business done.
But President Ali told reporters on the sidelines of an event Wednesday evening that there was no need for investors to be getting involved with middlemen.
“This economy is going to expand. There are going to be more and more carpetbaggers coming in here; more persons claiming to be much more than they are. I am saying this very clearly to the public and to the investors, there is absolutely no need to go through any middleman; there is absolutely no need to engage any lobbyists, and there is absolutely no need for anyone coming to you [with shortcuts in setting up business in Guyana],” the Head of State contended.
He went on to point out that his Government would be going after those who continue to use middlemen to get things done illegally.
“We will have to deal with this situation because if you engage middlemen and lobbyists who want to claim that they have more than what they have, then you are also accountable and liable. Because it means that you are prepared to engage in something illegal. So, I’m warning [investors],” the Guyanese Leader noted.
According to President Ali, he has already instructed Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, to look at ways to further strengthen Guyana’s laws to clamp down on those middlemen as well as those who engage them.
Only last weekend, state-owned China Railway First Group Co Ltd (CRFG), the firm that won the contract to revive the highly-touted 165-megawatt Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP), denied corruption allegations made by VICE News.
In addition to shining the spotlight on the Amaila Falls Project – a flagship initiative of the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic regime – the Journalist mentioned being shown a contract between embattled Chinese businessman Su Zhirong and China Railway for a major road project. CRFG had won the contract for “East Coast Demerara Public Road Widening and Improvement Project – Better Hope to Belfield Village” back in 2014.
But according to China Railway, in a statement over the weekend, the news piece is “misleading the public… on the groundless fabrication of so-called factors in an attempt to defame Chinese enterprises here in Guyana”.
The State-run Chinese construction firm solemnly stated that it has never signed any agreement with Su, nor has it conducted any actions that were shown in the footage.
“Since its presence in Guyana from 2008, CRFG strictly abides by the laws and regulations of Guyana in conducting its business operations in the country. We express strong indignation on the behaviours that VICE News and Su Zhirong deliberately fabricated stories and spread such untruthful information on the Internet to mislead the public and damage the reputation of our company. We strongly condemn such behaviours of defaming Chinese enterprises,” the company said in the statement.
Already, the Ali-led Administration has criticised the news agency for attempts to paint top Government officials and the country at large as corrupt, specifically accepting bribes from Chinese investors, following the release of parts of the broadcast prior.
Moreover, in addition to the bribery scheme, the broadcast also claimed an alleged elaborate money-laundering scheme within the local Chinese community. On Monday, President Ali told reporters that the “self-confession” in the docu-series warranted a probe by local security forces.
Following on this remark on Wednesday evening, the Head of State explained that he could not instruct any of the security forces to conduct such an investigation, but noted that the onus was on them to look into it.
“I support any investigation into that person [who made the confession]… There is a self-confession where somebody said they are involved in something illegal and any security force or Police force would want to investigate that, but don’t ask me to direct anyone. I am a President that would never get involved in directing anyone. Everyone can rest assured that this President is going to work within the constructs and constraints of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana,” President Ali posited.