GEA takes fuel importer to court over illegal imports

The protest in front the GEA office

The Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has taken to court fuel importer Dorwain Bess of SBF International Incorporated, even as the importer is leading protests in front the agency over restrictions on his business.

A summons was issued against Bess based on complaints filed by GEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Mahender Sharma on behalf of his agency. He is being represented by Attorney-at-Law Arud Gossai. According to the summons, Bess will have to appear before the Diamond/Golden Grove Magistrates’ Court on August 17, 2021. The summons was issued on July 19, 2021.

According to the complaint, Bess is accused of importing fuel without an import or importing wholesale licence that was issued by GEA. According to the complaint, this is a breach of Regulation 4(2) (b) of the Petroleum and Petroleum Products Regulations 2014.

The complaint states that “The defendant between 3rd and 4th November, 2020 at Friendship, East Bank Demerara, in the Georgetown Magisterial District, imported petroleum products to wit approximately 155,000 litres of diesel without authority to do so under an import or an importing wholesale license.”

Meanwhile, Bess on Tuesday led a small group of protesters outside the GEA’s office on Quamina Street, Georgetown. In an invited comment to the media, Bess said that the protesters want to go back to work considering Guyana is in the middle of a pandemic.

Bess had contended in sections of the media that billions of dollars in investment were at stake because of GEA’s action to cancel his fuel import licence, prompted by issues with a purportedly altered date on his lease agreement for his fuel storage facility and the GEA’s inability to carry out its lawful duty to mark the fuel because they were refused entry to SBF’s Linden facility. Bess, a US citizen, has contended that he is being victimised and has in fact reached out to the US Embassy for assistance.

Bess was served with a notice of cancellation in August 2020. But the fuel dealer has said that prior to the cancellation of his licence, a fuel shipment had already been ordered and paid for in part. Bess has contended that the shipment arrived on September 2, 2020, days before the cancellation was supposed to take effect.

Meanwhile, reports that an arrest warrant was withdrawn against Bess because it did not follow the correct legal process were debunked by the GEA, in a statement on Tuesday. According to GEA, the warrant was issued because of failure to serve summons on Bess.

According to GEA, Bess’ case concerning the illegal dealing of fuel came up before the court on April 30,2021, where it was revealed that all attempts to serve the company’s Directors at all known addresses failed.

“The address on East Street, the address of the registered office contained in the documents filed in Commercial Registry, and the address at which the GEA had previously successfully sent mails to the company while it was a licence holder, no longer appeared to house the company.”

GEA said that as a result, attempts were made to serve each Director at his personal address as stated in the documents filed in the Commercial Registry along with all other addresses associated with the Directors based on various communication submitted by those Directors.

“All such attempts failed. The Agency even attempted service at the registered office of another company, Alpha Petroleum Trading Inc at which Bess was stated to be a Director, however, this too proved futile.”

As a result, an application was made by GEA for an arrest warrant, which was granted by the Magistrate. GEA said that this application was granted on the basis of apparent attempts to avoid service of the summons. GEA noted that should Bess wish to challenge this warrant, this can only be done through the legal channels and “not through the media.”

“The matter was again called on July 2nd, 2021 and a further adjournment to July 30th, 2021 was granted as the warrant had not been issued. Prior to the adjourned date, the defendant Bess presented himself in court, seemingly having been told of the warrant’s issuance and the warrant was recalled. GEA was not present on court that day, as it had no knowledge of the defendant’s intention to appear,” GEA said.

“The recalling of warrants where defendants present themselves is a usual practice and ought not to be represented as an act of malice or impropriety on the part of the complainant or the honourable court, as the defendant Bess has sought to imply. Again, if Mr Bess was dissatisfied with the issuance of the warrant there is legal recourse open to him of which his unnamed attorney must be aware.” [Guyana Times]