– says APNU/AFC wants to cripple company’s operations in Guyana
Following the seizure of two luxury vehicles from BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc last month, principals of the controversial Chinese conglomerate have written the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Ban Ki-moon on the matter, stating that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has breached the agreement between the Governments of Guyana and China.
On April 5, officials from GRA’s Customs Department seized a Lexus SUV with registration number PRR 2888 and a Nissan mini-van with licence plate PRR 3888, belonging to BaiShanLin.
According to an article in today’s Guyana Times, the Chinese logging company allegedly has over $50 million outstanding in duties, which it failed to pay within the stipulated time frame.
However, according to the letter dated May 16, 2016, Attorney C. V. Satram on behalf of the company complained to the UN that the seizure was in breach of the agreement signed by the two countries in March 2003, noting that “the Government of the Republic of Guyana has commenced operations beginning with the seizure of property and the threatened loss to forfeit the company’s investments and to cripple its business in Guyana”.
The Guyana Times reported that it has seen the letter, which was also copied to President David Granger. It outlined that BaiShanLin represents Chinese investments in Guyana and Guyana’s relationship with China is threatened by these events; therefore, it was requested that the UN remind Guyana of its obligations.
“I shall be grateful if action can be taken to remind the Government of Guyana and China of their obligations in this regard. The matter is causing severe losses to the company I represent, but it may extend to create impediments to foreign investment in Guyana to the prejudice of the national interest when it becomes known that the treaty obligations are not honoured here,” the letter stated.
Moreover, the correspondence further pointed out that in accordance with the agreement, which is on record with the UN as a treaty between China and Guyana, disputes are to be settled after consultations through diplomatic channels. However, in the event of failure to reach a resolution within six months, then the process of arbitration can be adopted.
On this note, the company said it has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana Zhang Limin to commence diplomatic consultations with the aim of settling the disputes.
In that letter to Minister Greenidge, the company explained that following the execution of the agreement, BaiShanLin went on to invest enormous sums of money in Guyana and in the development of forest products. However, since the Administration was changed after the May 2015 General Elections, the new Government has embarked upon a course of activities designed to cripple the company’s operations in Guyana, the Attorney stated.
The latest of which, the letter highlighted, was the imposition of tax liabilities on vehicles for which the company was granted duty-free concessions by the previous Government.
“The new Government seeks to dismantle the concessionary structure, and has commenced to seize property (owned by the company)…in pursuance of its tax liability, which the company claims to be unlawful, the Government, through its Revenue Authority, has embarked upon seizures to enforce the tax liability which is denied and is strongly contested,” the correspondence to the Foreign Affairs Minister stated, adding that the investment agreement under which the concessions were granted has not expired.
Moreover, a third letter was dispatched on behalf of the Chinese logging company, this time to the GRA, stating the Authority’s action was in disregard of the international obligations of Guyana under the agreement with China.
“The purported imposition of the liability is unlawful and the imposition of it triggered a dispute between the company and the Government of Guyana,” the letter detailed.
Moreover, Attorney Satram on behalf of the company sought to request that the vehicles be returned within the next week. “On behalf of the company for which I act I hereby call upon you to release and return to the company all property which has been seized from it or has been possessed or confiscated within seven(7)days of the date hereof,” the company’s legal representative stated.
According to BaiShanLin, this is a matter of concern not only to it, but to all investors who wish to undertake investment in Guyana.
Days after the seizure just over a month ago, attempts were made by this newspaper to ascertain GRA’s course of action in recouping the outstanding payments. When asked whether the Authority would be filing criminal charges against the foreign company or would opt to settle the matter beforehand, GRA Chairman Rawle Lucas had stated that no decision had been taken at the time.
However, the latter option might be more feasible, he had noted, since Government wants to maintain its relationship with investors, but at the same time ensure that they operate within the confines of the laws of Guyana.
“Remember, what we are trying to do is to make sure that we can try our best to maintain a reasonable relationship that we expect between the Government and the investors; so one should, therefore, expect prudent actions to be taken in order to deal with the matter,” he previously pointed out.