Fuel smuggling: PPP calling on Auditor General to investigate vessel linked to Gov’t official

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The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has expressed concerns over the manner in which the vessel which is reportedly linked to a senior Government official, among other notable figures, is according to them, receiving “special treatment.”

Recently, it was reported that a ship suspected to be smuggling fuel was intercepted by the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) following an operation.

The ship which was intercepted

According to reports received, the vessel called the ‘Jubilee’ purchased fuel from neighbouring Trinidad with Suriname as its destination port.

After the deal fell through, however, the vessel reportedly docked in port Georgetown last week Friday.

Reports indicate that GEA agents boarded the vessel, which was carrying over 200,000 gallons of unmarked, undeclared fuel after the crew was unable to provide the requisite documentations.

GRA Commissioner General Godfrey Statia, said on Tuesday that the vessel was not seized, but the Agency has impounded the vessel until the taxes have been paid. He noted that the directors of the company that own the shipping vessel will have to pay some $36 million in taxes to GRA.

According to the PPP however, “we are aware that the law provides that in such a circumstance, the boat is liable for forfeiture, the owners are liable to a fine of treble the value of the amount of tax evaded, as well as being liable for criminal charges. This is the regime of treatment to which the ordinary Guyanese is normally subject in similar circumstances. It begs the question, why this particular vessel attracts special treatment.”

As such, the PPP says it is calling on the Auditor General to launch an investigation into the matter, since they are of the belief that “this case is being handled differently because the vessel is owned by several persons who are deeply connected to the Coalition Government.”

See the PPP’s full statement below:

The manner in which events are unfolding, in relation to a boat, recently held with smuggled fuel is raising eyebrows across the country. The Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is reported in the press as saying that the boat contains smuggled fuel and a fine of $30M will be imposed. This seems to be the only sanction which will be imposed on this vessel and its owners.

We are aware that the law provides that in such a circumstance, the boat is liable for forfeiture, the owners are liable to a fine of treble the value of the amount of tax evaded, as well as being liable for criminal charges. This is the regime of treatment to which the ordinary Guyanese is normally subject in similar circumstances. It begs the question, why this particular vessel attracts special treatment.

Our information is that this case is being handled differently because the vessel is owned by several persons who are deeply connected to the Coalition Government. Our sources say that the Commissioner General received direction from the Ministry of the Presidency, in this matter and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) is deliberately being kept away from the investigations.

The GEA would normally institute several criminal charges in such situation. We are further informed that a top official at Guyana Water Inc. (GWI), who holds a fuel import licence, rents this licence to fuel smugglers for millions of dollars per trip, to give them legal cover.

This fuel smuggling ring is huge and it defrauds the state of hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue per month. Yet, SARA, SOCU, the DPP and the Commissioner of Police turn a blind eye to these activities. This is so because Ministers of the Coalition Government get kickbacks from every trip. This is one of the reasons why the US State Department in its latest report, identifies corruption in Government as a major source of money laundering in Guyana.

We call upon the Auditor General to launch an investigation into this matter and we call upon the international community to note the level of corruption which permeates this Administration.

 

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