Former President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar, under whose tenure the government disposed of its 20 per cent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) by sale to a Chinese company, has come out swinging at the 10-month-old A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) government after the Administration said on Wednesday, the Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group, which bought the shares, has already repaid the outstanding US$5 million; however, there seems to be no record of the payment.
In 2012, Datang purchased Government’s shares at the cost of US$30 million from the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and based on the agreement with the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, the company paid off US$25 million and had two years to make the outstanding payment.
The PPP/C had long maintained that the outstanding monies were not paid and after assuming office last year the APNU/AFC regime undertook to recoup the monies; hence Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s recent trip to China.
But, a post-Cabinet briefing on Wednesday revealed that based on documentation in the government’s possession, the moneys were paid long before the May 11, 2015 General and Regional Elections.
“What I can say is that Mr Harmon has been able to retrieve some documents which tell a different story. That story being, of course, that the five million was paid so we are trying to track down to whom, how, where and when,” Trotman revealed to reporters.
However, Ramotar in a recent statement to the media, rejected the assertion, and said the claim by government that the money was received is a lie. “I challenge the government to present the “documents” it has received (under suspicious and questionable circumstances) so that the veracity of the evidence can be tested and authenticated,” Ramotar dared.
It was under Ramotar’s presidency the government sold its shares in GTT and according to the former President, the transaction was public, including NICIL’s efforts to pursue legal recourse in the UK to collect the outstanding balance.
The PPP/C administration never had any reason to doubt the word of NICIL’s competent technical staff when they said the amounts were outstanding and every effort was being made to pursue, Ramotar added.
“Any claim that amounts were paid, would not be hard to prove,” Ramotar stated, adding that NICIL was the sole entity authorised to receive the payments.
The Former President believes that the APNU/AFC administration’s insinuation that the money was paid to someone else or some other entity other than NICIL prior to the May 2015 elections is a distraction from “the real issues”, adding that the cantankerous claims of massive corruption under the PPP/C administration have yet to be proven.
Meanwhile, former Executive Director of NICIL Winston Brassington in an invited comment said he was unaware the outstanding monies were paid to NICIL up until December 31, 2015.
“If it was paid, then the seller can easily produce evidence showing this. Payments of this nature are transferred via the banking system (wire transfer) from one bank to another and easy to check and validate. Given that the first payment was wired directly to NICIL’s US dollar bank account in Guyana, I would expect the remaining US$5M to have followed the same course,” Brassington said.
He clarified that after the payment of the initial US$25 million by Datang, there has been no amendments to the sale contract up to the time of him being a part of NICIL.